Family Skeleton Dance Party!

Family Skeleton Dance Party Playlist:

1.  Fire Dreaming
2.  The Falls
3.  The Sex Apartment
4.  Diary of a Failed Teenage Exorcist
5.  The Dancing Cave and The Prophecy
6.  Karma Frog, Frog Karma
7.  Drunken Parents Obstacle Course
8.  The Antidexter: A Seminar Hosted by Dr Velvet Thong
9.  Abominable Snowmonster Therapy
10. WTF is Stigma, Anyway?
11. Barfing Mad: The Department of Addiction and Psychic Crime
12. Getting Drunk With The Bumble
13. Rites of Passage and Sexual Trivia
14. Token Lesbian Sex Scene
15. My Aunt Gave Me Genital Warts, and My Mother Tried To Give Me Herpes
16. The Herpes Fairy
17. Ace of Cups
18. Helveeta's Herpes Happiness Blog
19. Happy Days
20. University of Disorganized Thinking
21. Little Pond, Big Pond
22. Our Rodeo Days
23. Six Weddings and Three Funerals
24. A Wedding and Four Beagles
25. The Dude, The Dud, and The Mountain of Kitty Litter
26. Cecil Livingston Seagull
27. Family Skeleton Dance Party - The First Draft
28. Birthday Chainsaw Massacre - The Director's Cut
29. The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, and Everything Else I Don't Know Where Else to Put
30. Social Media Epic Fail
31. The Church of Nonconsent/
32. The Suicide Registry
33. All-Inclusive Psychotherapy Travel Destinations
34. Virtual Video Clinic
35. Black Unicorns
36. I Still Don't Get It?


37. Family Skeleton Recipe Collection
38. Family Skeleton Fashion Closet
39. Night of the Werepossum, or, Pimped Up Possums

Family Skeleton Dance Party!

Fire Dreaming

Dear Dr Velvet Thong,

I am writing to let you know that I don't know if I will be able to make it to our next scheduled session. I'm not sure how much time I have left. I had hoped it would all go so differently.

I think our Plan was a good one. I really hoped I could find one last massive effort in me to tie all the loose ends together and help a lot of stories to have happier endings, including my own. I would help Don Quixote with his house, help him clean, update and organize some things and prepare for his future, and I would try again to write something for my biological family, something that at last would help us all, lift our spirits, bring the pieces together. The challenge of my life has always been to try to harness the destructive more constructively, to find ways to have more control over something inherently destructive, like fire. That's what fire dreaming is to me, my life's work, all my effort to make it come out in some positive way. To try to get farther each time I have to start again.

But it's all shot to hell now.

Don't get me wrong. I am proud of myself. I have done the impossible already. It just wasn't enough.

I think I might be too sick to write, and so I will have to leave things unfinished, hanging, but life does tend to be like that rather than neat and tidy.

Dr Thong, you have helped me more than you could know. Attached you will find the unfinished manuscripts. They're a mess. Do you know what to do with them? I don't even know if this message will reach you.

Yo way yo,


The Falls

Blinky: Of all the places we have lived, which do you have the best and worst memories of?

Boo: I liked The Falls best, and the worst might have been the one with the swimming pool.

Cecil: The one with the dead squirrels in it?

Beany: I only remember the green swimming pool. Did it have dead squirrels in it?

Cecil: No, the green one was green because of all the algae in it.

Blinky: The one with the dead squirrels was after the Sex Apartment, and Beany, you would only have been about 5 or 6. I think the dead squirrels gave you nightmares, maybe kind of like there were Poltergeist squirrels on the property, so maybe it's best you have forgotten. That place was brown and orange and it smelled bad. I guess that was common in the 70s. I often have trouble finding memories through the swamps of brown and orange plaid, or shag carpets, and the permanent cigarette smoke fog.

Boo, do you mean the depressing apartment where there was a swimming pool in the courtyard, the place where we were all crammed in like sardines, with the orange and brown vomit flower couch Grandmother Bumble donated, and for the first year, because of the disruption, you had trouble socially and it wasn't until the next year that you had friends again, and that lonely year, when you mostly only had me to watch tv with or talk to, was something you never want to experience again?

Boo: I'm not sure which place was the worst, and I'd rather think about the good times, in all places.

Blinky: That's understandable.

[Note: Cecil, Beany, Blinky and Boo did not reside at the place with the dead squirrels. The Bumble rented that place after Mama Smurf complained about the Sex Apartment (which technically had banned sprogs anyway), and for a time that's where they visited him. The squirrels weren't removed prior to visitation. A few years later, on the farm The Bumble taught Blinky that drowned mice and rats must be fished out of horses' water buckets ASAP, and the buckets properly cleaned, but those squirrels were probably there for the duration of his tenancy. It is just now occurring to me that this might be one source of inspiration for Boo's obsession with horror movies.

The pools in the houses The Bumble rented were never cleaned, so they weren't really useable. But, it sounded good to lawyers to say 'I'm renting a house with a swimming pool', and because the kids all liked to swim, and it was a way of competing with Mama Smurf's side of the family. She took them to the beach, and her brother-in-law The Space Cowboy worked for a time as a pool salesman - and he would sometimes let them visit unoccupied swimming pools in summer, or the pool showroom at night - you can probably imagine how fun it might be for sprogs to wander around in such a place, free to choose from all the different shapes and types of pools, like Sprog Heaven.

Also, let's make it clear from the start that no one actually talks as the characters did here.. I'm paraphrasing and improvising, in order to get the gist across, and to protect the innocent.]

Did Blinky the Three-Eyed Pumpkin blink and miss her life? If you have too much baggage, can your life ever change in the blink of an eye?

The Sex Apartment

4 kids, Blinky, Beany, Cecil and Boo, ages ranging from 4-9, two girls, two boys, are sitting at a table for breakfast, eating Froot Loops and drinking orange juice from jars containing labels which read: Mother Phucker's Homemade Jam. Instead of reading newspapers or comics, they all flip through copies of Playboy, Penthouse, and Hustler.

The Bumble is busy using his skill with knots to create handholds on a long rope for his kids and several others as he and some other separated or divorced friends plan to take them on a field trip to see The Santa Claus Parade, and don't want to lose any of them. Each individual handhold looks like a perfect miniature noose. I wonder what Freud would say about that.

One wall of the Sex Apartment looks like a kid's paradise grocery aisle, with every conceivable type of junk food. On the door, a sign like on a boys' club playhouse, which reads NO SMURFS ALLOWED. Maybe a picture of a smurf with a red circle and line through it. It's an adult luxury apartment. The other walls are covered with erotic art prints, which depict women in a variety of submissive positions, and there's an impressive bar, extensive even by 70s standards.. There are two bathrooms, and it can be difficult to maneuver through the stacks of sex mags in order to use them.

The Bumble: You're overreacting.

Mama Smurf: You are too immature to be a parent. You give them so much junk food they come home sick for days. You let them look at sex magazines with no supervision, watch as much tv as they want, and it sounds like you get drunk and let them do whatever they want, period. I'm going to report you to the apartment management, and I'm going to call my lawyer. How serious are you about exercising your visitation rights when you take an apartment which states Adults Only on the lease agreement?

The Bumble: Get off your high horse. What kind of example are you and Neil Carnegie/Dale Diamond setting for them over at The House of Kama Sutra?

Mama Smurf: That it is possible to have a committed relationship with someone you are attracted to and have chemistry with.

The Bumble: He's a shifty-eyed, hypocritical criminal. Do you want your kids to end up on drugs or in jail?

I signed the lease because I don't believe anyone should have to martyr themselves for getting divorced. It's the nicest place I could find, on a separated man's budget. The rules are ridiculous and discriminatory, and I never had any intentions of following them. Besides, when the lease is up, I'm moving into a nice family home in suburbia with 3 bedrooms and a swimming pool.

Mama Smurf: It took you more than a year to get that house, but it doesn't mean you know anything about being a parent or how to set a good example.

By the way, I'm going to take them on a family camping trip for the summer, and we're moving to Northern Ontario. Then we'll see how serious you are about visitation.

The Bumble: The Pollution Capital of the World, The Armpit of Ontario! With a racist dog-beating loser you're giving all my hard- earned money to? We'll see about that.

Mama Smurf: You're making excuses to get out of paying as much child support as possible. You have no sense of proportion; you expect all 4 of your kids to live on a tiny fraction of what you make. I carefully plan and am as careful as possible with money as I can be, while you spend without giving it any thought. What about their futures? That's why we're moving further north. We bought the fishing resort to give the kids a chance at a future. I can't make enough money as a supply teacher, Avon and Amway representative with the amount you send and still plan for their educations, so I'm taking a risk and trying to give them a chance.

The Bumble: Well I'm moving to a farm, and there will be horses for them to ride, and dogs, and fresh air, not like in Sudbury with the mines and smokestacks, or Espanola, with that hideous paper mill.

Mama Smurf: We're outside Espanola, closer to Manitoulin. Dale can teach the boys how to fish and play guitar.

The Bumble: Natalie's a much better role model. She's a nice person, and she can actually cook.

Mama Smurf: By nice, you mean that she puts up with all your bullshit and never questions you, and takes your side over everyone else's, including your kids'. It means she never speaks up for herself or wants anything that isn't in line with what you want. Is that really what you've looked for all your life?

The Bumble: Sounds like someone's jealous.

Mama Smurf: You don't even really care if you ever see your kids, and most of the time you forget about them for weeks on end, and on birthdays. You'd rather not have had them. You'd rather get drunk than spend time with them, and you can't actually spend time with them for a whole weekend without getting drunk. The only reason you want to see them is to hurt and scare and manipulate me into losing my shit so you can point out to them what a witch I am. All that matters to you is winning, getting back at me, at any cost.

In his best steely-eyed Walter White impersonation:

The Bumble: Listen up Ms Fucking Psycho Smurf, I am a good father, and I've got a team of lawyers behind me to back me up so you fucking watch your fucking step or I will take all your kids away for good. I'm living in a respectable suburban home now, with 3 bedrooms, and a swimming pool, and if that's not enough, I'll move to a farm, and I'll have a horse breeding business that will provide for their futures.

How popular do you think you are with your own kids?

Mama Smurf: They're just kids, and of course if they have the choice to eat junk food and watch tv they find it hard to resist, but it won't be long before they see through you.

The Bumble: I wouldn't bet on that.

Mama Smurf isn't ready to give up, but she does feel scared. She's also really, really angry. It's a frustrating position to be in, to be able to see ahead when someone with more power refuses not to.

Mama Smurf: I'd be surprised if you had the skills or discipline to run a successful business, and horse businesses are pretty difficult to succeed at, but if you could contribute, that would be something. However, I suspect that even if you did make money, you'd still find ways to spend it, and not be able to provide guidance or support to the kids.

The Bumble: There are more important things to pass on to kids than handing them their futures on a silver platter. I had to make it on my own, and I don't respect anyone who can't. What I will pass on to them is 'heart', of which you have none.

Mama Smurf: Look at the odds. Not all of your kids can be Rocky. We need to give them Plan Bs. They can't all live like each day is their last, such that special occasions are no longer special, but indistinguishable from everyday life. We have to give them limits and boundaries, teach them how to delay gratification, how to look forward to or anticipate celebrations and rewards.

The Bumble: Kids need big dreams. All the restriction you place on them isn't good for them. You try to validate your existence by thinking you're needed, or it will all go to hell, but you're completely useless and unnecessary. Kids know what they want, and the only thing that is important is that they're happy.

Cut to: A phonecall between The Bumble and Mama Smurf.

The Bumble: I don't know what you want from me. I didn't see anything wrong with my last place, and just because you think you can screw me out of visitation by moving to Bumfuck WhoknowsWhere in the hopes I'll just lie down and take it, you've got another thing coming.

In the past screaming and inarticulateness, possibly what I have 'translated' above might represent some of the underlying 'philosophies' of the arguments. It's a bit unfairly skewed at the moment in favour of Mama Smurf, who, I must admit in order to be fair to The Bumble, had a lot of religious quackery influencing her ideas - but, stripping things down to parenting itself, one of her issues might have been that while she had valid points, she didn't know how to articulate them, and it came out a screaming mess. When you don't have time to be prepared for Walter White, it seems possible that's a 'normal' reaction. Her anger, and cursing of Blinky when Blinky chose to live with him seem to suggest a kind of immaturity on her part as well, and some of the punishments she inflicted over the years seem to have been coming from irrational places, such that even years later, Blinky couldn't really understand the punishment. However, a little more guidance and boundaries might have prevented a life of being constantly out of control for Blinky, which means she and the others all probably could have done with a little more of their mother's influence. The war between the two parents also contributed to a kind of paralysis - each way you step in life, there are hidden landmines, and there is no way to move without fear of being blown up/hated/permanently damaged, and never loved.

He is interrupted by a tugging on his sleeve.

Blinky: Dad, I think Mommy is a lot prettier and sexier than a Smurf.

He ignores her.

Blinky thinks that maybe Mama Smurf likes smurfs because it's hard being a mommy and sometimes she wants to feel like a kid again, and play with stuffed toys. Maybe she just finds them so surreal looking that it makes her laugh, and she needs to laugh sometimes. They're like the opposite of Mommy and what she thought her life would be, in every way.

Meanwhile, the camera pans out so we see the dead squirrels floating in the swimming pool, and then inside, again we see the fantasy grocery aisle, and again in the middle of it there is a 70s style bar common to the time period, fully stocked, and the kids, sitting on bar stools, busy themselves mixing drinks in cute, colourful plastic kiddie cups of various descriptions. (This didn't really happen, but they got to try drinks, they were always witnessing the adults drinking, and so I'm trying to get across that it was imprinted with the junk food.) The Walter White thing probably needs to be emphasized, because when I saw it on tv, I recognized that really cold, merciless will, not concerned with 'right or wrong', or anyone's best interests but his own survival, and 'winning', at any cost, while remaining in denial about his true motives, almost to the very end. And it's possible The Bumble did him one better.

Note: The Bumble and Mama Smurf do not really talk like this, they have their own style, which has been changed to protect the innocent. Same goes for their kids.

Diary of a Failed Teenage Exorcist

A series of flashbacks: various members of the family try to speak to the Bumble and he goes into a rage and roars and steps on them or throws them against the wall, or even dances around in a rage and steps on them accidentally. Also, a scene at the North Pole where ice is breaking away and all the children are floating in the cold water, and in a panic the Bumble starts using them to step on, and he hops from one to another, with the sprogs almost drowning.

Voiceover, by Blinky: We hadn't been able to find a dentist willing to work on Bumbles, and that's the root of the problem. He's got a horrible toothache that results in his behaviour. When I was a child, watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer I used to find The Bumble scary, but now I think he's kinda cute, and quite funny.

And then more flashbacks, of The Bumble playing horsie with the kids, and another in which he tried to lift all 4 at once, and the groceries at the same time, while walking from the driveway to the kitchen, and then, another with him patting each of the kids on the head.

Blinky, aged 16:

Dear Diary,

Today The Bumble found us playing with a Ouija board. He became extremely angry, and ROARED!

The Bumble: You are inviting evil into this house! You are inviting my enemies into this house! I don't ever want to see one of these instruments of evil in my house again!

And with that, he ROARED again, and cracked the board over his knee, opened the front door and threw the pieces out into the street. And he slammed the door.

Beany, Cecil, Boo and I were all perplexed, but we understood it was probably best not to ask why he was so mad. We never brought it up again, but we all retained a lifelong interest in the supernatural.

Dr Velvet Thong: How much of this actually happened, and how much is creative embellishment?

Blinky: I know memory can warp things and is notoriously inaccurate, and I am pretty sure my siblings will think I didn't understand The Bumble, Mama Smurf or much at all about the past, and that I'm as out of touch with reality as that Sylvia Plath chick (just not as poetically out of touch!) But that's because they were brainwashed so effectively no one has been able to rescue/ deprogram them.

Dr Velvet Thong: Tell me about the exorcisms.

Blinky: To this day, suburban homes give me the creeps.

I am just noting this down, because it might be possible to find ways to link a suburban style and mentality with 'evil'.

Blinky: Technically, I only attended the one. It was probably the most boring exorcism ever. I think many teens have had similar experiences, and are blogging about it, and so it's probably going to seem old hat.

The Bumble was hanging out with his psychic friends a lot, and one day he asked me if I wanted to sit in on an exorcism. I think he said something about getting the right combination of vibrations, or no, I'm making that up. I got the sense that I was auditioning. They wanted to test if I had any psychic potential, if my energy would combine well with their group. However, underneath all that, I think they might have had more sinister motives.

Dr Velvet Thong: Tell me all the details you can remember.

Blinky: I have forgotten a lot, but I'll try.

It took place in daylight hours, in a bright and clean 80s style suburban home in a suburb outside of Toronto. Not with all the usual knickknacks common in such homes of the day, but more like that New Wave kind of look, sparsely decorated, and subtle, not avant-garde like Liquid Sky or anything.

Dr Velvet Thong: screws up eyes as if trying to picture this.

Blinky: There was The Bumble, me (16 - not long after I returned home with tail between legs. I'd left in a panic one day due to The Bumble's sexual advances, I lived in a state of panic and confusion for a couple of months and then had a traumatizing experience in which I was left for dead, all cut up in a field 90 miles from where I was renting a room), two middle-aged women, and a man with schizophrenia who was frequently possessed by demons. The task at hand was to help exorcise the current one/s.

It could be that rather than dealing with the mental health industry, this particular method of keeping his condition in check worked for the man possessed by demons. I think a prerequisite to be at the table was that you accepted the possibility of demons, and preferred this type of spiritual healing to resorting to the medical profession.

I think I was pretty open-minded at the time. I was having PTSD style nightmares, and wasn't getting much sleep, but I had no conscious connection to feelings of resentment, anger or self-pity. I think I accepted life and its complications without prejudice, and that I was there in a spirit of exploration. And I admit, I wanted to be special, and psychic.

I suspected the subject was gay and had some issues with that, but I kept that thought to myself.

Dr Velvet Thong: In the 80s the equality laws hadn't been passed yet.

Blinky: We held hands around the table. I don't remember music, candles, or anything like that. I wasn't given specific instructions, and I think they just wanted to see if I had a natural ability. The point was to try to tune in, become aware of the demon, and then as a group pressure it to leave through psychic persuasion. Also, the possessed guy was supposed to help out by notifying us when he felt it coming closer.

At a certain point he did become frightened and panicked, and described what he could, but I don't remember what he described. What impressed itself upon me was his distress and emotional intensity. Whatever it was he was experiencing, it was real to him, and he needed some kind of catharsis.

I think the others started to ask the demon to leave, but it was mainly through positive thought beaming processes. I didn't really know what I was doing, and just tried to beam positive energy 'wherever it was needed', and also tried to be open to anything new and exciting that might present itself to me.

Dr Velvet Thong: It's too bad you didn't tell people about this years ago. Now everyone probably just suspects you downloaded your experience off the internet.

Blinky: I didn't have a frame of reference for it, and I probably felt bad that I wasn't good at it, that I didn't have a talent for it.

That was basically it and the exorcism was over. The guy calmed down. Wait, we might have gone through the process more than once before the demon was totally gone.

Dr Velvet Thong: Did you ever participate in any further exorcisms?

Blinky: No, I was never asked back. I guess I didn't impress them, or didn't have the right vibe. I know I seem cynical now, but back then, I was still quite 'open', so I'm not sure it was about me having a bad attitude. I think they had decided that I didn't have the right vibe, or enough power, or I wasn't positive or psychic enough. One thought I've had is that everyone at the table was attracted to The Bumble, and that for some reason that's what made my vibrations 'wrong'.

Dr Velvet Thong: Was this experience before or after your father's psychic friends discussed your destiny to kill yourself before the age of 21?

Blinky: I'm not sure, but one of the ones who shared this idea was not present at the exorcism. She was an older, more established psychic who'd given me a reading at a psychic fair not long before, my first reading ever. The Bumble seemed to be saying that all of them separately first had come to this conclusion about me. If they'd all come to the conclusion separately, and were all psychics who made their livings as psychics, maybe that gives the prediction more weight. When everyone Wants To Believe, it's probably pretty hard to overcome some human flaws that even special people like psychics might possess, such as the need to please/kiss the ass /gain the favour of a New Powerful Psychic who would lead them through the Apocalypse into the New World. The kids and spouses of Artists and Famous people probably deal with this phenomenon all the time.

Dr Velvet Thong: Freud might say that they were just psychic enough to perceive he wished for your death. Did you have any further contact with these people?

Blinky: I'm not sure if it was the same day, or not long after, but The Bumble brought me to meet the daughter of a husband and wife psychic team.

Dr Velvet Thong: Why did he do that?

Blinky: They all wanted me to meet her and see if I could offer any 'impressions' about her psychic state.

Dr Velvet Thong: And?

Blinky: She was a little older than me. She seemed extremely depressed. She was noticeably sad, as if she cried often. She didn't seem to have much energy or hope, and it looked to me like it was difficult for her to even move. I didn't know how to articulate it, but I thought that because the parents were so wrapped up in the 'special destiny' of being important, paid psychics, they had neglected her and made her feel as if in comparison she wasn't very special.

Dr Velvet Thong: Do you know what became of her?

Blinky: No. After I saw her, I didn't leave the house for months. The two excursions were rare and occurred during that first extended period when I lost touch with the structure of normal life.

This group of psychics believed for a time that The Bumble was the leader who would help focus all their powers to their full potential, and that they would all have special roles in the upcoming Apocalypse. I guess I can see that problem teens were something to put on the backburner, when you think about the enormity of something like The Apocalypse.

Dr Velvet Thong: They had special meetings, aside from the exorcisms, to discuss this?

Blinky: Yes, for a while, during the period when The Bumble was out of work, he was always jaunting off to an exorcism or some kind of special psychic meeting. Sometimes when he was at home he would tell us about the upcoming times.

Dr Velvet Thong: He believed the End of the World was on its way?

Blinky: I might have some things confused, because for a while he spoke about a Psychic School which he and his friends would run, and that I would be a teacher there, and there was no need to complete regular high school, and it might have been also that there was no need to keep polluting my mind with unhealthy ideas. I'm confused because it might also have been that I didn't need to finish high school if the world was ending. But if they all thought I'd kill myself by 21, maybe they weren't sure the world was ending immediately, and maybe they thought I had some things to teach before it was my destiny to die. It could be my memory is faulty, but it could be I never really had all the details, because they were all kinda confused.

I realize some people might think I wasn't compassionate enough about my father's mental illness, but he had support, he had corroboration of his religious delusions and psychic impressions. I didn't have support, I was isolated, and I think it was the same with that psychic couple's daughter.

Dr Velvet Thong: Or that their leader was confused?

Blinky: I think for a time he really did have experiences that seemed oddly synchronistic or 'prophetic'.

Dr Velvet Thong: If the psychics didn't think he was mentally ill, perhaps it's not so odd that his kids didn't realize it, either? This is the oldest story in the book when it comes to charismatic leaders, and to be fair, they might serve an important function that can't be summed up or dismissed as 'mental illness'.

Blinky: I think he believed Boo might be The Second Coming. My bible knowledge is sketchy, but he himself was some character who was to go 'toe-to-toe' with The Antichrist (who he once seemed to hint was our uncle The Space Cowboy, the drug dealer.) Maybe it sounds like we were all pretty gullible, and not recognizing he needed psychiatric care, but he spun a good story, and we were all magical thinkers who wanted a special destiny. And by that time, I was kinda invested in the idea of the world ending, because of my serious, insurmountable problems. I was isolated, had no real guidance or role models, except those who seemed to believe I'd kill myself, and that it was all good, all part of God's or whoever's plan. And to be honest, although you might detect some hyperbole in my tone, I'm still not totally sure they were wrong about me.

Dr Velvet Thong: Some of us have to fight all our lives to believe we can have something good or even enjoy life.

Blinky: He told us his enemies would try to get at him through us, and that we must surround ourselves with white light, visualize it.

Dr Velvet Thong: What happened to these ideas over time?

Blinky: While he was engaged with his new friends, he invested in the idea of the world ending. He'd received a generous severance package from the place he was running when he had his accident, and he just 'lived in the Now' until the money ran out. The world didn't end, the Psychic School remained a pipe dream, and I think that he had fewer visions and premonitions.

Dr Velvet Thong: In a sense, the world did end, life as you knew it changed forever.

Blinky: When the money ran out, he started to break down. He first tried to get money from our bank accounts. My brothers were the ones with a more signficant savings, because Mama Smurf had paid them for their work at the fishing resort. He demanded the money and they gave it, for the family. He borrowed money from his mother. And he applied for welfare but was denied, and when that occurred, he said good-bye kiddies and good luck! and he tried to sign himself into a psych ward, but they refused him entry, possibly because he had kids to take care of.

Dr Velvet Thong: He was affected by the stigma and misunderstandings associated with mental illness, or at least the lack of adequate resources, and it had ripple effects.

Blinky: My memory is foggy about the timeline, and what the solution was. He might have got another loan from his mother, he might have landed a job. He might have stopped seeing his psychic friends around the time he started dating a woman with two teenagers who taught business classes at a high school.

Dr Velvet Thong: This was when you moved to The Beaches, in Toronto?

Blinky: She might have helped to get him organized, like he was a fixer-upper type bf. Once he landed a decent job, at least comparable to his past high paying ones, they decided to go in on a house together in The Beaches, and form a Brady Bunch style family. She was very organized, and to help provide guidance for the kids, she devised a rotating chore schedule for various types of house and yardwork, and in addition that each kid was expected to cook one meal every two weeks, and write up a shopping list for That meal. I had been doing all the housework and cooking, and you'd think this would be a relief for me, but in some ways it was still pretty stressful. Overall, I'd say it was one positive way of providing a fair, non- sexist structure and discipline, but by that time it really wasn't enough. We'd had to adjust to too many different extremes in too short a timeframe.

We divided ourselves into teams of two. Cecil and I were by far the best team, the most conscientious, responsible, reliable team when it came to any type of house or yard work. In the early part of my life, 'responsible' was always one of the adjectives anyone would have used to describe me. It's weird, the way things go sometimes.

I'm rambling a bit.

I think she might have had money of her own, or from her divorce settlement, or something, and the house was only in her name, and when she kicked him/us out, she and her kids kept the house. She had done things 'smartly', to protect herself.

He had a serious breakdown partway through the year and she was completely horrified, but she held on to the end of the schoolyear, perhaps for our benefit, helped him find an apartment he could afford for all of us, and that was it, we moved again.

With his next serious girlfriend (his second legal wife), when he moved to Winnipeg, they both went through another New Age phase, and there were tons of books in the house, but for the most part, whatever he wished for he kept mum about. Note: when we moved to Sudbury, he called it the Armpit of Ontario, but made no such comments about Winnipeg, which was/is the Murder Capital of Canada, and not a very pretty city.

After my stay in the psych ward at Misericordia, my apartment was on the main floor of a house on a street just off Portage, a very easy walk to the whole downtown Hudson Bay-tunnel system. I only had a phone for the last couple of months, but before that, if I ever needed to call anyone, I went to a payphone down the street. It was located near a large parking lot, and I'm pretty sure a body was found there while I lived there. Also, there was this trail of blood leading from the phone to the parking lot, and no one from City Works or anything came to scrub it off.

After that period of exploration of New Age philosophies, K-Pru shopped around for a church with a good choir, and settled on some version of a Christian church, I'm not sure which, and became completely identified as Christian. They broke up after being together in total a few years, married for less than two years, when she left him in Winnipeg.

Many years later they got back together and lived in Northern Ontario, and all of her communication was seriously Christian-influenced, as if she was a hardcore cult member.

Specifically, in her communications with me, there was an easily identifiable theme: if you are unhappy in your life, it's because you have to work on your relationship with Jesus. I could even try to translate to my own belief system and say 'OK, what she's saying is that I have to be consistent with my beliefs and values when it comes to actions I take in order to have a meaningful life', and I tried to proceed from there and I tried to open a dialogue, and I think I chose my words carefully, to be clear I was not a Christian, but not with a condescending tone.

She never responded, and The Bumble never emailed me, either. She wasn't, but it's possible he was something of a Luddite. She was still so angry that years later when I emailed her to say 'sorry for your loss' when The Bumble died, my first message bounced back, and when I asked Boo for another email address of hers, she never responded to the second attempt. I don't know what upset her, because she wouldn't tell me.

I don't know to what extent he shared her religious views or merely tolerated them because he needed someone to take care of him and support him, because he hadn't planned for the future while always living in the Now.

I think it's unlikely he would have been too keen on attending church services, but I think they both worked at a soup kitchen distributing food to the poor in their later years.

The Dancing Cave and The Prophecy

The Prophecy: In a voice that everyone would respect and trust.. maybe imagine that it sounds like Galadriel..

Blinky, firstborn daughter of The Abominable Snowmonster, if you do not kill yourself by the age of 21, your entire family will be cursed, and no one's potential will be fulfilled. Do you really want to be responsible for that? You will throw a wrench in The Apocalypse, and no one will live happily ever after. No one in the entire world.

Blinky, of No Fixed Address, this is the task that has been appointed to you. If you don't do it, nobody will. You are the evil created in the name of evil that must be destroyed so that the things that should not be lost will not be lost forever. Your journey will be long and perilous, but the rewards beyond measure. Throw yourself in the fire! We are all counting on you.

We all had the dream, and sometimes I thought maybe everyone in the world had had it, too, because of the way people looked at me sometimes, or most of the time, right after they asked 'What do you do?' and I hemmed and hawed. I knew what I was supposed to do, and I felt extremely bad that I hadn't done it.

On the evening of my 22nd birthday, enraged, my father took me to the cave and left me there without food to die.

I haven't eaten since, and I don't know how I haven't died.

That's when I started to dance. There wasn't anything else I could think of to do with my time.

As my eyes became accustomed to the darkness, I began to make out the skeletons of my ancestors and of others not related by blood, all of those who had come before me who had died in this cave. We all danced together. I did not know the stories of my ancient ancestors but I learned about the original 'lifeforce' within them, the struggles, hopes, dreams, passions, rivalries, disappointments, and everything that had died with them, and when dancing, it did not feel like the 'lifeforce' was weak in me, I felt connected, I felt I could connect the past, present, and future and in effect do a kind of particle dance, butterfly effect where I could swirl the particles, and every time I danced, it had an effect in the world, and it wasn't a negative effect, and in a way I could dance with anyone, everyone, anywhere, from any time or in any time, and in this manner, alone and abandoned in a cave, I could nevertheless find answers for those not at peace, those unfulfilled, and all those who wanted to challenge The Prophecies, but had no Voice.

Time is not the same in the cave, but I could not always hold on to all times at once. That I could only do when I danced, and I don't know how to dance any more. It's been many years since I last danced, and it doesn't seem like I will ever dance again.

Later, there was another dream, and this time the voice said:

Because your family is so special, we will let you have another chance. The day you manage to kill yourself, the curse will be lifted from your family and from the world at last.

So do it, already!

Through the years, extended family, friends, acquaintances and general passersby, understandably anxious about the fate of the world and their own personal destinies would ask The Bumble and my siblings about how I was progressing in my task, if I was getting any closer to lifting the curse, and The Bumble had coached them all to say:

She's busy. Don't worry, it won't be much longer now.

Karma Frog, Frog Karma

Once upon a time, a young Feminist (whose mother the Queen wanted her daughter to grow up to be a Working Princess) accidentally ran over a frog while mowing the lawn. She felt awful for the poor little frog. Knowing full well she should be able to solve this or any crisis, she did not call her father to put it out of its misery. She hoped it would die on its own, but when she came back hours later to check on it, the little red spots where the legs used to be were still pulsing.

As punishment for not living up to feminist principles or understanding them, the witch who lived in the tree that was the frog's home cast a guilt spell on her which turned the young feminist into the frog. She still sits there today, the little red spots pulsing.

Tree Witch: When your brothers chased toads with the lawnmower and laughed when they managed to run one over, the toads only suffered a little in the chasing, and only momentarily before becoming spatter, whereas you abandoned that frog to a horrific fate. Therefore, you must live as that frog for all eternity.

This becomes a family fable, a source of great amusement at every family gathering, for years to come. The punchline becomes: Run Froggie Run! And everyone laughs, like the Simpsons in the Family Therapy episode when they all push buttons to deliver electric shocks to each other. And the girl believes she deserves it.

Every year the frog receives sadistic Valentines and Birthday Cards from the kinfolk of the original frog, to make sure she never forgets.

Blinky: Can frogs' legs regenerate?


Dr Velvet Thong: Hang in there, Oblio.

Drunken Parents Obstacle Course

A game show for parents to test their parenting skills drunk. This is how the game works: a group of parents and their sprogs are put into the testing facility house/neighbourhood, the parents are supplied with alcohol, party favours and music, (and sometimes illicit drugs) while the kids are directed to unsupervised play areas which have been specifically designed to result in certain kinds of injury. The object of the game is to test how quickly drunk parents and their friends can become aware of a problem, and get sprogs to the hospital before permanent injury or death occurs. It's understood that sober applicants need not apply as they are irrelevant for the purposes of mass entertainment and cultural advancement. The show's motto:

My Drunk Parents Are Way Cooler Than The Stunted Sober Chickenshits You Call Parents!

Dr Velvet Thong: In the 60s and 70s, many women smoked and drank through their pregnancies, and it was not considered odd.

Blinky: I don't know for sure if Mama Smurf drank and smoked during her pregnancies or not. The Bumble and Mama Smurf were highly social. We were always going somewhere. Neither of them were ever as social again with subsequent partners, but they were still a lot more social than I ended up.

After our births, our parents participated in 'normal socializing', which in those days usually involved lots of alcohol. During these parties, it didn't seem to make sense to get babysitters, since there was a house full of adults. There were frequent trips to Emergency for the kids.

Dr Velvet Thong: No 'child-proofing' houses and apartments. And you and your siblings played outside and in dangerous situations without supervision, and occasionally there were accidents.

Blinky: Everyone trusted The Bumble to drive whatever vehicle to Emergency. Snow, icy conditions, whatever.. he had good reflexes. I don't think he ever had an accident, drunk or sober. When he was caught for drunk driving 3 times in 3 months when I was a teenager, I don't think that was because his driving was erratic. I think it's because they were starting to crack down on drunk driving, and police would wait outside the country bars where he went to drink, and then follow and pull people over and force them to take breath tests. That's just a guess, and I realize I might never know the truth.

Dr Velvet Thong: Perhaps it is good for children to see their parents in a good mood, especially if a lot of the time there is tension, or the parents are fighting?

Blinky: I totally agree. Sometimes anxious people are actually more effective at teaching new tasks or conveying love when their day- to-day anxieties have been relieved or softened by alcohol. This was particularly true of The Bumble. The common thinking is that alcohol makes everyone an asshole, but the worst things he did or said were usually things he did or said sober.

Blinky: I guess what would usually happen would be that we'd be playing, an accident would occur and somebody would have to identify if someone was just momentarily stunned or crying in a minor way, or seriously hurt and we had to attract the drunken parents' attention ASAP. I guess it was easier to figure out if everyone could see blood gushing everywhere, or something like that.

Dr Velvet Thong: Do you remember any of the trips to the hospital?

Blinky: Probably quite a few of them over the years, but some are more vivid than others. I mean, I can remember my trips to the hospital, parts of all of them, but I wouldn't have been there for the other kids' trips. There would be parents who took injured kids to the hospital, and others who stayed at home with the rest of the sprogs, I think. I can remember bits and pieces of other incidents and I know there were a lot more, and it's possible I remember fewer with Beany because I was getting older, and I might have been a better babysitter by then, with an ability to spot trouble before it resulted in a trip to Emergency.

I remember when I had a concussion and had trouble seeing and felt like I was going to throw up in the car on my navy blue dress that looked like a Girl Guide dress that I was afraid the adults would be angry and that I would be a disappointment to myself and them and that when I started throwing up, when I couldn't control it, an adult was nice about it and was telling me not to worry as I apologized. I'm not sure which one. I suppose they understood my throwing up was a sign of concussion and they knew they were on the right path. They had to get there; they got there. Well done. That was a Gold Medal day in the Drunken Parents Olympics. But there were a lot more.

I remember going for stitches when I was about 3. I had tripped over a purse on Babci and Grampa's kitchen floor, and split my head open. I remember I didn't cry when they did the stitches, and the doctor or nurse was impressed.

Dr Velvet Thong: It all sounds so stressful. I admit I'm glad I never had sprogs. I suppose drunk, reflexes might be slower, but maybe there'd be less panic? And maybe drunk it's easier to enjoy the evening, without checking on kids every two minutes? I wonder if the kind of parenting you experienced was a middleclass North American thing, and if it would sound strange to people who live in other parts of the world.

Blinky: Oh, gushing blood head injuries, for example, we were all bouncing on this old sofa with springs sticking out of it in the basement at one place (we were using it like a bouncy house), and I was only 6 there so Cecil was probably 3, and he bounced off it, it looked like he was flying, onto a metal baby carriage, nailed the corner of his head, and there was a lot of blood and we all went running up to get the drunken parents. There were some other kids there, but I don't remember which ones. We had formed a line and we'd take turns bouncing and then leaping off (trying to fly!)

But yes, I think on average we all had about 3 major Emergency trips each by age 10 or so, and the parents made it each time and we had no permanent damage (aside from a few scars which added character) or death, so well done to them.

Dr Velvet Thong: There was also the time when you were 3 and you tempted another 3 year old to share a bulksize bottle of baby aspirins with you and the drunken parents somehow found you and got you to the hospital. And all the times Boo swallowed poisons?

Blinky: There was also a time when he was really young and his appendix burst and they had to take him to the hospital. I think Beany mostly had health issues related to her asthmatic bronchitis. She'd cough so hard she'd vomit. That was pretty shocking and scary. I always wondered if that had something to do with how much smoking all the adults around us did.

I'm not sure Mama Smurf would have been any less self-possessed in a crisis, but I think it's likely The Bumble tended to take all the glory for himself, as he was usually the Designated Drunk Driver who had to get injured sprogs to the hospital without compounding the problems.

The Antidexter: A Seminar Hosted by Dr Velvet Thong

Dr Velvet Thong: Dexter is a very entertaining tv program, but it's important to think about the broader implications.

Almost all males I've ever known have been Dexters. Their primal self-protective instinct tells them they know what information is essential for females to know, and that the best outcome depends on skillful secrecy. When females know too much, it adds layers of complication that ultimately mess things up. Males rely on their assessments and skills and discount female abilities - we all discount or devalue female abilities, and this is about white male privilege, and spinning the story.

Do women tend to outlive men because men protect them? Or despite them? Dexter ultimately wasn't able to protect anyone, except himself. Most of the important females in his life die. Since this doesn't match statistical reality, do we then view Dexter the tv show as male fantasy - and specifically, a kind of misogynistic fantasy, where when females become problematic, it would be kinda nice if they just died?

But if it seems like we are honouring the relationships in a public way, it disguises the hidden fantasy and relief when they're gone, and deflects from the problems they were causing?

Persons of colour do not tend to fair well in this program, and pretty much the best they can hope for is to be considered loveable oafs compared to Dexter.

The universal thing is that all people know what it's like to have to conceal something 'dangerous' about themselves that would hinder their social and general success in life. Since my life is about taking an opposite stand, I have dubbed myself The Antidexter.

The universal thing is that unconsciously, we are still programmed to support a white male patriarchy, and the atrocities that are necessary for its continuation.

It's a very nice piece of brainwashing/propaganda.

If you watch for entertainment's sake, the underlying themes of white male supremacy (at least the ones able to pass as hetero) and support of capital punishment might slide right on by.

There are people in the world who like to kill, there are some people who deserve death, and only Dexter can be trusted with upholding this sacred balance. We trust Dexter to be objective, and to find the definitive proof, and later, when he makes a few mistakes, we know his intentions are good and we let it slide. But even so, the story is told from his perspective, and easily squashes all of the usual lefty-pinko objections.

We always admire someone who is especially skilled. And when someone breaks the law and never gets caught, that is kind of impressive. It is never difficult for viewing audiences to accept that it is sometimes necessary for even law enforcement officials to break the law.

Dexter retires other killers, and we are invested in believing that he is always right, that if any of the others deserved to die less, they'd have found a way to beat him. He and his brother Brian aka Rudy or The Ice Truck Killer were both very young when found in a pool of their mother's blood in a shipping container. Dexter is taken in and raised by the cop Harry, and taught a Code to live by to channel his murderous instincts for the good of humanity and his own survival. Brian is deemed a lost cause although not much older than Dexter.

If both brothers grow up to be creative, competent serial killers, and the only difference is upbringing (nurture), and that's why people like Dexter better, or the show is about him and not Brian, then the 'hero' of this show represents a kind of dumb luck, or maybe that Dexter had a slight advantage because he was younger or cuter. The whole white male thing though usually represents something like Will, Reason, Determining One's Own Destiny.

But anyway.. why wouldn't Brian, or any other serial killer deserve sympathy?

If Brian had had a Harry, and other serial killers had had a Harry, which one would we like best? I guess most people wonder why any of this matters for the purposes of entertainment. Well, for lefty pinko reasons. Perhaps any serial killer, or drug addict or sex worker, or disadvantaged person in the world, if they had a Harry, could channel their impulses and early experiences differently, and we'd like them as much, or more than Dexter.

The whole show is an argument in favour of the importance of nurture over nature. Nurture is the reason both Dexter and Brian's sociopath genes were activated (extreme childhood trauma), and the reason we root for Dexter over all others (Harry takes an interest in Dexter). So, in fact it tells us the opposite of what the white male patriarchy and the republicans stand for (solitary will, reason, self- determination, etc.) Mrs Harry is curiously or perhaps not so curiously, something of a nonentity in the whole thing.

He is 'nurtured' with the white male patriarchy propaganda. That's where the problem, the flaw is. And that's why the ending sucks so badly. So, to recap: nurture is more important than nature, but we need to make some refinements on the kind of nurture, and we need to understand that many more of the 'rejects' in society could potentially benefit from it.

Men might think they're alone in not having the appropriate emotional response, and this is because they are programmed from a young age to act as if they do, and programmed to compartmentalize. In effect, they all might be sociopaths, but if this is the case, maybe it's really just that we are ignorant, we don't have enough info yet. We are imposing an idealized morality over reality.

How much can one person realistically evolve in one lifetime? It would be nice if there was some kind of singularity principle that could get enough people up to speed, immediately, and I could retire, or take a vacation.

In the Dexter series, Rita is first married to a guy who abuses her, physically and psychologically - and then she meets Dexter. Is it worse to be abused, broken and 'alive', or to have a brief delusional period that you are in a 'good relationship', and then be killed because of this non-abusive, but secretive guy? Rita did get stronger and more assertive in many ways, but not strong enough to be prepared for Dexter's hidden baggage.

One of the purposes of these seminars is to help people become prepared for the hidden baggage of the Dexters in their lives.

If serial killers do help keep humans on their toes, when one is killed off or locked up, does another spring up to fill that gap? Let's leave my dating history out of this for now.

Dr Velvet Thong winks.

Abominable Snowmonster Therapy

Blinky: I can explain. I suggested that Don Quixote try to make a monster, for Halloween, and that after that, it could be our own unique chrismukkah ornament, a new tradition. I was giving him a creative, fun task to enrich his life, a challenge, while at the same time symbolically addressing my own psychological baggage with humour.

Don Quixote has never had to meet any member of my biological family. They're all safely tucked away on the other side of the world. The Bumble is/was the head of that patriarchy. In a sense, he spoke for them, because none of them ever became conscious enough to challenge him.

Dr Velvet Thong: It's also a way of dealing with how difficult 'special occasions' are for you, by taking control, putting your own positive spin on things?

Blinky: I'm making my own rituals, and consciously choosing what they mean. When I was young and I watched Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, I found The Bumble really scary, but as I got older, I just thought he was really cute, and I understood that he roared so much because he had a very bad toothache. I began to realize that in life, some of The Bumbles never bump into a dentist who can help and it helped me to see the damage they do differently. All the pain, confusion, horror of childhood, is still mixed in with some of the original charm, and I'm focusing on that. I can't let the rest of the family write my story, or wait for them to understand my part. I can forgive them if they still want to perpetuate myths like 'Blinky moved to Australia and is doing great', or 'She's batshit crazy and is best avoided until she decides to behave'. I can hope that one day they might understand better.

Don Quixote has become invested in this new ritual. He drew up plans and made measurements, and he took my suggestions on board. What else were we going to do with the old flokati rug? He struggled and sweat over his creation, but I think he also had fun, and was proud of solving the problems and of the end result. Every step of the way, I suppose I was the control freak framing the situation: the kids in the neighbourhood might find the Yeti fun (and maybe adults, too!), it might make them smile or lift their spirits each year he's trotted out. They might wonder each year if the Yeti will make his appearance, and perhaps this is a way I can address and deal with my psychological baggage and lift other people's spirits at the same time. I am weaving us all together in my ritual, focusing on the positive. And although The Bumble died in 2013 and so Don Quixote will never have a chance to meet him, I can host these posthumous family get-togethers that leave us all feeling better, not worse.

We can say it's ridiculous to celebrate ridiculous holidays that should be obsolete by now, or we can admit that in some ways we like the silliness of it, and we can aim at taking it to a whole other level. We can admit that we need human connection, and try to find ways to make the impossible possible.

Dr Velvet Thong: What about having Don Quixote actually meet the surviving members in person?

Blinky: I don't believe in this lifetime I will ever have a 'fair go' in that situation, factoring in the family of origin, or Don Quixote himself, and what I know about The World.

Dr Velvet Thong: Say it for the record.

Blinky: Hi my name is Blinky and I'm an unrepentant control freak. Everyone I've ever known is living in a state of serious denial that can only be cracked open by Art or Time, and I'm not sure either of those is on my side.

WTF is Stigma, Anyway?

Blinky: I'm not sure where to even start with this. People throw words like 'stigma' around, they recognize that it's a Bad Thing in relation to mental illness, but do they know what it means? I'm not sure I do.

If at 15 I could ask my parents to see a psychologist, it probably means I'd read widely enough to think it was my best option at that point, and I didn't think it was shameful to ask, although it did take courage, especially because I felt a lot of guilt that my mother wanted me to talk to her, and I really felt I needed the input of someone outside the situation.

Less than a year later, with the suicide attempt, I think rumours started circulating within the family that I was turning into a nutjob, and on The Bumble's side, I think the most likely thing is that people made fun of it - it was just the style of humour they were all brought up with. And on Mama Smurf's side, maybe people were at first more quiet about it, hushing it up, and hoping it would work itself out.

I think on both sides of the family, it would seem strange to actually pay for medical care, and psychological care would be seen as even more unnecessary/frivolous. The Canadian system paid all medical expenses (er, except for things like abortions, even at a time you could only get one if two doctors said it was 'medically necessary' but I digress.) Look, if we lived in Japan, the old useless folks and the infirm in the family, like me, would either have easily consented to be dropped off at that notorious suicide forest (Aokigahara), or hightailed it there themselves. The American and even Australian systems would be weird to my family. And tv shows like Grey's Anatomy? You actually pay for surgery? That's crazy.

I'll try to break it down into sections to make it more manageable:

1. What do you do?

If you're a teenager, and your parents had been bragging for years about your grades and accomplishments, and suddenly this stops, it gets embarrassing. For people who especially don't like to admit any weakness or illness, it becomes a toss up, and it might be the most psychologically acceptable thing is to start saying the kid's gone bad, rather than is physically or psychologically weak. And then as years go by, and it's harder to make up excuses for absences or lack of progress in life, the truth just can't be hidden any longer. Perhaps no one means to, but it ends up feeling like you're not just letting everyone down, on purpose out of laziness or weakness, but you're a burden of embarrassment that puts them in the position of having to cover for you.

2. How much is all this costing?

Money is a big part of the shame. If you're not going to school, you have to pull your weight in other ways. If no one will accept you are ill, or don't want anyone to know, then everyone who meets you will think it's a character issue and the whole shame cycle is compounded.

If you're worried about costing money, and you feel out of control and have tried to force yourself to 'get better', 'get over' your eating disorder, etc, and you already know your patterns well enough to know you're not effective at controlling it, then on top of all the food you're already eating, you understand that no one would want to invest in something that might be a waste of money. If it costs a lot to go to university, it would be a shockingly stupid thing to do to sign someone up if they were too 'unstable' to go. 'Strong' people should be able to leave the house in an instant, with less than $2 in their pockets, land somewhere, and make a go of it. We don't admire anyone who can't do that. Stay in your room until you are ready to do this. We don't want to hear your excuses. We are not going to coddle you - otherwise you'll never learn.

As time goes by and adulthood is reached and the situation hasn't changed, part of what happens is a kind of inertia, but it's also like the hoarding situation. More and more psychological obstacles get placed in front of the original problem, and it gets harder and harder to access.

In my particular situation, in being housebound for years, by the time I was 18 on, even when I didn't have a job, it would have been negative reinforcement to give me any money. That would have been too 'easy'. The family privacy and politeness policy probably had some effect, and personal integrity as well on my part. I knew I should be working, and so I wouldn't complain or attract attention to it if I ran out of personal supplies. I tried to budget carefully with money I received for chrismukkah and birthdays. In Winnipeg, there was a stretch when I didn't have tampons, and I cut up old sheets and used and reused the rags for a while. Even then, I reasoned that women all through the ages had been doing this, and some in poorer countries still did. There was no reason to feel sorry for myself or to draw attention to it. I had access to a washing machine.

Underneath this, I suppose it was all about embarrassment, stigma, and money. This embarrassment was a kind of family sewer I lived in, but thought it was what I deserved.

So, no one is acknowledging 'mental illness', and no one's asking questions about personal needs, or seeming to inquire about hopes, dreams or plans for the future. It's either like ostrich syndrome with everyone pretending not to see, or there's a kind of resentment: why doesn't she stop inflicting this on us? and fear: We'll never be free of her.

Yes, it is hard to live with someone who is mentally ill, but it's hard to be the mentally ill person too, especially if you're somewhat perceptive and conscientious and compassionate. Most people think the mentally ill 'aren't all there' and don't realize what a burden they are, and so they sympathize most with the poor family that has to bear the burden. And so with friends and society taking the family's side, it can feel like a very big burden for the mentally ill person to bear.

In later years, everyone really just left me to sort out my own monetary issues. Mental illness was My Problem. We don't want to hear about it. It was like if I tried to bring anything up, I was imposing, or it was like I had slimed them.

When I was granted disability, partly because the family attended family therapy sessions with me for a while, it was like after that, everyone believed it was all settled, for life. I was unmonitored and unmedicated for many years, but no one inquired about my situation. They didn't want to know. I think this might somehow relate to stigma, as well as family psychology and patterns. We've invested as much as we possibly can in you, more than you deserve, when we contact you once a year on birthdays or holidays, have the decency not to inflict your problems on us.

Was I ill, was I weak, was I a scumbag, was I a shirker?? The reactions of society and my family all seemed to be pointing to what a loser and an embarrassment I was.

In later years, when having contact with other mentally ill people online, it did seem that although most of them came from extremely fucked up families, the ones who did best were those who had a certain minimum of support, the ones whose families could play some part in helping connect the person with the system. When I have made the comment in the past that I was 'too disabled to do all that had to be done to apply for disability', it's not an exaggeration. It seems likely to me that many homeless people have less support than the ones able to go through with the process, although it might be tricky to spot (and dismissed as them making a choice or being too difficult to help) because of the internalized brainwashing - the effects of stigma within families and society.

It has occurred to me more than once that sometimes the homeless might actually be 'prouder' or more ethical than people like me. They summed things up, and went dutifully to the forest.

If I write that Don Quixote married me to save me from homelessness, again there's a collective ewwww that I can hear in my head. I can hear 'oh the poor nice guy', and there were many concrete examples, people warning him in my presence that I was just after his money.

So, am I a gold-digger, or am I mentally ill?

You don't just get a permanent resident visa for marrying someone. There's a complex process. Officially, they were allowed to discriminate against homosexuals, HIV positive status, TB and obesity, but a psychologist warned me that they were having a problem with my eating disorder and so at that point I started to lie to them. The message I got was: mental illness is expensive. We don't want people like you in the country. And in the interview, I was asked a lot of questions about my ability to work fulltime, and by that time, I knew the only 'right' answer was to lie.

I was extremely conflicted. It didn't make sense to put myself or Don Quixote through all of this, especially if it was better I die anyway. Why put it off?

Does any of this have to do with stigma, or is it just about a sensible way of preventing excess spenditure? In the 17 years I've lived in Australia, I haven't sought mental health treatment, or had it forced on me. I've probably utilized medical services less than the average person, and haven't really cost them much. But did I feel pressure not to be a 'bad investment' on Australia's part? I would say so. I was afraid to tell my doctor many things about my situation, afraid to tell Don Quixote's family much, and this is partly because it would have put them at risk. The things they had to sign for me, statutory declarations.. was I really worth it? The less they knew, the better. So the message continues.. keep it to yourself, don't burden others. Wouldn't it be better just to kill yourself?

And meanwhile, I can see my doctor is suspicious of me, because I only slowly start telling her some details over the years and so who would blame her? But it feels like crap to be judged as a bad person or possibly a liar by someone entrusted to your medical care. It doesn't make it easy to visit, especially when it's already difficult to deal with all the self-consciousness in relation to my body.

3. A really big problem is that there are so many different kinds of mental illness that even those who accept some kinds still discriminate against or judge other kinds.

Eating disorders are still not very well understood. My eating disorder has been like an incapacitating addiction that has affected every area of life including my ability to plan for a future, attend school, have a job, even have the confidence to see a doctor, but it gets summed up as a ridiculous thing, that I barf after meals, and someone who'd let something like that destroy her life is extremely shallow and stupid and we just can't relate to her.

An agoraphobic might recognize their reasons for not going out aren't strictly rational, but still might look down their nose at someone who suffers from delusions. I did find that in a community of the mentally ill, the different types are constantly judging each other. And there's no clear, objective consensus or language to help us all decipher who's legit and who's milking it, and I think it's because of the way society is structured, and it's about collective consciousness and unconsciousness.

The Australian criteria for disability ensure that a lot of people will slip through the cracks and feel like it's their fault.

When laws and public opinion are not on your side, it does have effects. It's fantastic that marriage equality has finally passed in Australia.

What about how easy it will be to scam the system, or that more and more people will come forward and the country will go broke from overload? I'll just quickly say that if so many people need and seek treatment, it's about the state of society, quality of life, and potential for quality of life in Australia, and that those things need to be addressed and can't be solved with a pill. As for myself, I would happily volunteer to be euthanized, if humane options were presented.

4. Those who are mentally ill participate in stigmatizing themselves.

I moved away from Canada, letting my family think the worst of me, because I thought it was best for my ex. Before he met me, he was pretty isolated, but even when I stopped seeing my family and their social circle, he continued to see them, and I supported him in this. I figured I was a lost cause, and he might as well have their support, social ties crucial to survival.

My marriage with Don Quixote was never real, it was a political act of defiance, and an act of compassion on his part, and I've always been ready to step aside for 'someone better for him' than me. I couldn't help his isolation by donating my family this time. I found the possums for him! I created a family, a support structure. I created the first possum website, and I nagged him for years to get his photos and thoughts out onto the web so that he could 'find his people'.

But I continually act in ways that suggest my life and contributions are of less importance, and everyone seems quite willing to accept this. It is a bad idea to bring up the money thing again. If I were to leave, how realistic is it that I could survive? Don Quixote has enough that he could give me a kind of charity-alimony that would be similar to living on disability payments (without disturbing the security or comfort of his future and retirement), and I could manage on that, but I'd need help getting set up, and I would need his help for that, and we've reached some stalemate because until I have the strength to believe I deserve it, and push for it, we won't be able to do it, because he requires me to make all the decisions and direct him completely in it. And I fall over because I'm scared that I won't do the conscientious thing and kill myself or die after a year or so, after having a bit of time to live independently, and he will get stuck paying for me for the rest of my life.

There's absolutely no way I'd qualify for disability or even general welfare in Australia, and so if anything happened in my relationship with Don Quixote, I have no other contacts in Australia, I would not qualify for any kind of benefits and it would be beyond me to apply anyway, and there's no way in hell I would go back to Canada, but even if I did, because I've been unmedicated and unmonitored for decades, I would not qualify for assistance. And it 'looks bad'. You've been living in Australia? If all you say is true, how did you manage that?

If I am just a Loser, is there anyone who appreciates my guilt and embarrassment about it enough to say: er, in this kind of case, voluntary euthanasia would be humane? Rather than let me continue to bleed poor suckers dry to the end of my life? What kind of benefit am I to society? All I do is Take, and never Give Back.

So.. are my attitudes about myself in part about lack of adequate info about mental illness and about stigma, or are they justifiable, deserved Low Self-Esteem?

Have we connected the dots here? Or made a good start? Can anyone else take it from here? Please?

Dr Velvet Thong: Are you feeling self-conscious about how often you've repeated yourself over the years?

Blinky: Yep, you guessed it. Am I really saying anything new, or am I even saying things in a different way?

Dr Velvet Thong: I think it makes sense that you might forget what you've already said, or how well you said it, because you haven't received enough feedback. There's no evidence of people hearing your words, even when you string them together particularly well. However, I do think you have made progress over the years. I see it, if no one else does.

Blinky: I have figured out a way to try to express a significant problem with the situation here.

Smartphones. I keep explaining my situation wrt addiction, depression and isolation, and through Don Quixote's framework of knowledge it is interpreted in sort of the old literary or artistic tradition. Writers and artists suffer for their art, by now my personality and patterns are fixed, all we can do is sort of try to get through the 'bad times'.

Smartphones = unfortunate language tools to help us get the necessary message across. Terms, vocab. Mentally ill. Disability. Odious as it all is, intellectually limiting as it all is.

Blinky: I want to state clearly that I am uncomfortable with just waiting. My level of discomfort isn't acceptable, and your level of trying to pretend it's all fine isn't acceptable to me.

When it comes to the rest of the world, I know you don't have a language to describe 'what I am' or what I do, and so I know that I must be a source of embarrassment or discomfort. In order to help you, and to help myself, I think we have to put some effort into updating this 'smartphone'.

Don Quixote: I don't really know how to do that. We're probably going to let it drop, and go back to keeping the peace here as long as possible.

Blinky: Does it seem at all strange or disturbing to you that I don't have a phone or don't use the computer any more? That I only go on once a month and/or to shop for basics, that I have no contacts besides you, that I no longer add to my website. Are you worried about how I pass the time in my room, not having contact with anyone, and not using a computer and not reading books? Do you wonder what's going on in my mind?

Every day is an Emergency, and every day is a feat of endurance to get through, but I am getting better at containing it in my room.

And so I wonder, if I don't feel 'special enough to deserve to live', how can I possibly have the energy to do that for others? Is there something hypocritical in it? Or just sad? How do I escape the pattern? Because every time I weigh the options, it still seems to me best to compromise, to admit that I want to do something special for you, and that some years I can be better at it than others.

Don Quixote: The trip to Northern Rivers was really great, and many of my birthdays have been really good. I really appreciate it.

Blinky: I am glad. I do like it when you are able to enjoy things. It makes me feel better.

Dr Velvet Thong: Obviously you know that it's a major burden for one person to be a mentally ill person's sole support?

Blinky: Of course I do, and that's why I could see the areas in which he himself lacked support and I tried to encourage him to build those areas, even if it meant making friends who would counsel him to distance himself from me. He can't do the same for me, and so it reinforces that I deserve less support, I'm the one with less value to society.

When I am isolated, when I haven't used the computer in months or added to my site, he doesn't say, 'you have important things to say, what's going on with your website at present?' He doesn't say 'people would benefit from talking to you, you're a really interesting person who makes people think' or 'what can I do to help you focus on another trip?' I see his mental patterns and hoarding patterns, and I try to figure out ways to organize and channel differently. I challenge the system. The way he tries to help me is always to simply bring me the drugs to placate me but perpetuate the cycle. He thinks it's cruel not to, even when I tell him ultimately it's crueler to just keep letting the days go by and not try to find some way to challenge the system/pattern. You have a smart brain. Did you just inherit political and social viewpoints from your journalist father, or can you take a bunch of new, unfamiliar info, sort through it and reach your own conclusions? Do you need some authority figure to give you the greenlight, to let you know it's a worthwhile cause, or what?

And I have to feel guilty that talking to me is so draining because it's unimportant, fluffy, psychological hoarding garbage that has to be sorted through, but sorting out his hoarding issues, which takes massive effort on my part, is something I must bear stoically, because his problems aren't as ridiculous as mine? And when he talks, and goes on and on, actually kind of similar to me, except with different subject matter, it's more valid, because it's about how things work scientifically, it's about technical problems and things that are generally more important because they are about either his paid work, or his hobbies which everyone praises, compared to all the stuff I do, which is useless and rightly gets no negative reinforcement in the form of encouraging feedback.

And people will see his intellectual points, his online organizational style, and compare with mine, and think ah, she's a horror to live with, never shuts up, etc, and they don't know that I've now been keeping track, and he goes on about things much longer than I do, and I contribute more meaningful suggestions and comments than most of the fluffy Humanities types do than he can return to me, so there's no damn equality. But if I lose it one day, because I finally think I need to write, if he can't help me with my issues the way I can him with his, and I lose my temper when he begins a long discourse on something and I say:

I'm sorry, I can't talk to Treebeard right now!

I feel like an absolute shithead, and the guilt keeps piling on all the guilt and shame and stigma Hoarder's Mountain and how am I ever to Give Back something Positive?

His family is like mine in some ways. You suck it up and solve your own problems, or you take yourself to the forest. Don't embarrass us or yourself. It's a perfectly sound intellectual choice to kill yourself, but do it with dignity.

I think it is a family system/communication problem, and a stigma problem. I wasn't allowed to talk about my 'condition', and so no one really knew what it was. They thought it was something that wasn't real, and that I was choosing to be a deadbeat, not that I didn't have enough support such that I could be a support in return.

I accepted my lot for a long time, or I tried to, and I accepted the putdowns, even when or maybe because I knew they weren't really aware they were doing it. And then I began to see things differently, and to see it made more sense for me to choose not to attend family functions rather than say 'I can't'. But with this, I also realized it was important to try to explain why, and when I tried, I was shut out. I 'should' have tried harder, perhaps, but it was too difficult to take everyone on, when they were so invested in maintaining the status quo. I had to accept that I couldn't change the system from within.

It was important to get a 'divorce' from family, to level the field, and make it possible to make choices. Only if we could be genuinely interested in each other's lives (and that goes both ways) would we be a real family. Only if you remove the programmed obligation is there a chance to make a choice.

When people have fantasies that some movies/books represent regarding slavery, about being the 'nice white person' who helps the black person (or the straight person who befriends gays) who is suffering indignities and prejudice, can they relate that fantasy to any current issues, such that they are able to step up and actually do something before other people are the ones to step up? I know I have written this badly, but I will try to get the idea down. If you support some causes in theory, and even have fantasies about being a certain kind of person, shouldn't you actually act while you have a chance to do so, while you have a chance to be one of the voices that is heard? So that it's not just the case that after the fact you sit around watching movies and having fantasies about being one of the people who tried to speak out in some way, or help?

It might be good to work that story in again, about how I seemed 'the person who least needed to be on a psych ward' in all my incarcerations, and the psych nurse at the last place confided that Day School was only for the Hopeless Cases before she realized I was one. When after almost a year of family therapy I mentioned that I was interested in applying for disability, she asked me if I wanted to attend Day School.

It was like I had let her down, or was choosing to fail, when she had bet on me to make it out. Maybe she wanted me to be one of her success stories, but in the end, it's like she judged me in the ways the teachings of Family Therapy were fundamentally against. It's like she was a therapist and didn't really understand the philosophies of the type of therapy she was offering. The failure of the individual is about a damaged family system. It's not about the individual choosing to be weak, but that's what all my family members took away from therapy ultimately, and in part, the therapists themselves contributed to it.

So, sometimes psych patients can lose even more self-esteem, if their therapists, and family judge them. You're the exception! In most families, it's about a damaged system, faulty styles of communication and obsolete and stubborn beliefs, but in this case, you are simply the worst excuse for a human being we've ever enountered, and we totally sympathize with your poor beleaguered family.

The psychiatrist in this situation was someone I only saw a few times, and it was difficult to talk to him. I had trouble understanding his accent, and he had to repeat things, and that made me feel bad, and then he made me repeat absolutely horrific and uncomfortable events from my life, very slowly, like word by word, so he could write them down. And I felt bad, because it was like maybe the whole thing meant I was prejudiced for not understanding his accent. But he never really shared any of his insights about me or my situation. He did write on the report for social services that my prognosis was Poor. I did see that. And later, when I had to see him to sign some forms when I moved in with Gandhi, he asked if I was planning to have children and I said decisively no, and he replied something like 'good'.

Whereas in the online dating community for the mentally ill, it seemed many people there didn't seem to worry about that kind of thing, it was like they had dealt with professionals who steered them toward dreams of relationships which did not preclude the possibility of having children. And of course, many of them already had children.

The doctor wouldn't have signed the forms if he didn't think I 'needed' disability. It might have been a personal disappointment that family therapy didn't 'work', especially with such a 'promising' family, but that was never communicated to me, and in the end it felt like the Failure was about me in particular, my choices, and that's what my family took away from the whole thing, not that the family itself was a 'hopeless case'.

If we look at family communication over the years, it seems seriously dysfunctional. The one person who is 'out of touch with reality' is the only one who can actually communicate like a responsible adult, who can identify problems or when she herself is angry, and try to make changes for the better. And this person is the one who is considered the most dysfunctional. She puts 'more' into communication than any of the others, yet is considered someone shallow and negative, who cannot really love.

I want to write down a 'karma incident', but it might also relate to the whole stigma issue and how it affects self-esteem. When I was 20 or so, I had an extremely painful period, and when my father saw me, he said it looked like I was going into shock. My face was white, my lips were blue, and I was in horrific pain. I went to see a doctor near where he worked, and the doctor couldn't find anything wrong. I never had an answer. To be fair, doctors see all kinds of people, and it is known that women have bad periods sometimes, and they vomit, have diarrhea and a lot of pain. But I was someone who didn't leave the house/apartment, and for me to go to a doctor, it had to be really fucking serious. I'd seen some of the girls who had bad periods, and I'm not sure that what I was going through was the same thing.

The Bumble described the doctor as 'dozey'.

When at 21 I called a Distress Centre in distress and went on about my situation, that I wasn't leaving the house, the person I talked to said that if you don't do something soon, you will have a problem for life, and the person asked if I had a family doctor, and I didn't have one, and so a few more questions got them to identify that the last doctor I had seen was that one, and in my distress I called him 'dozey', as The Bumble had done, because he hadn't helped me with my 'serious pain'. And I've always wondered if that volunteer contacted that doctor and told him what I said, and if that was why during a pap smear I had at 21 later in the year, when I was thin, he 'accidentally' cut my vagina with the metal speculum, such that blood was running down my leg. And so I thought maybe it was karma, maybe I 'deserved' it for speaking about him in that way. He apologized profusely, and I said it was OK, and I never saw him again. I guess I thought maybe it was like we were now even. If he had been testing my pain threshhold, I guess he would have seen that to me, a vaginal tear was like a mosquito bite compared to what I was going through with the period pain.

A few major family deaths have occurred in the time I have lived in Australia, and I have usually received a brief message sometime after a funeral has occurred. I sensed some anger or resentment in this approach, (is this somehow connected to the whole stigma thing, too?) but it seemed impossible to get anyone to open up about it. The best I can work out is that others were angry at my withdrawal and perceived lack of caring and responsibility, whereas my side of the story was that because I couldn't communicate about how depression had affected my life (family members would not respond to any conversation that veered in this direction), I couldn't establish a bridge between the differing perspectives.

Dr Velvet Thong: I have to admit that I'm not sure what advice to give you. I think it makes sense that you'd eventually think divorce was the only answer, but there's still the problem of finding some recognizable role for yourself in life. When you encounter new people, they usually seem to possess some of the same beliefs and communication style as your family, which dredges up the past again. Do you try to force yourself to 'get over it', and shun words like 'mental illness' and 'disability', and accept that you will live a life, in your room, in your head, dreaming of a future society you'll never be part of, because you'll be long dead by then? I think you might be doomed to keep trying to explain things, even if no one ever seems to register that you've said anything of import.

If the people you know feel embarrassed when they are asked questions about you by those in their lives, when they don't know what to say, or have to make up lies for everyone's comfort, I think that has something to do with stigma.

Barfing Mad: The Department of Addiction and Psychic Crime

Dr Velvet Thong: How do you expect people to react to your history with eating problems?

Blinky: I understand that for most people it's difficult to grasp that a person can have a problem with eating patterns that is severe enough to be debilitating when it comes to every aspect of life: in schooling, work, social life, and even when it comes to seeking medical attention itself. It 'sounds' like the person is just being silly, and I get that, but my problems with food were as serious as a 'real, grownup addiction' from the time I was 13 on, and I didn't know how to express that.

For me, there are a lot of other issues all tangled together, including PTSD and low self-esteem, and undiagnosed BDD.

[One aspect of BDD: I need to isolate it and draw attention to it, that when it came to rape, my biggest fear was not rape itself, but that my skin would be exposed and rapists would see it and find me disgusting. That has to be underlined, and challenged. Somehow I doubt I'm the only one, and yet it's not an angle I see people addressing.]

Dr Velvet Thong: When you speak of attaining focus, some people have thought you might suffer from ADD, and that you might need meds to treat that.

Blinky: It's embarrassing, but 'focus' is about concentrating all my effort to subdue the addiction for a while. It's a willpower, mind-over-matter kind of thing, and it relates to the fact that when it comes to food, you can't go without food altogether, and so you have to 'control' intake in some way.

If I were capable of getting help, I think I'd need those helping to:

1. Be honest about whether they think I look better when technically underweight, or if they see the pros and cons for both under and what is currently considered a medically 'healthy' weight.

2. Be willing to accept that if the details could be worked out, it might be 'healthier' longterm to help me maintain an underweight goal than to try to get me to accept a 'healthy' weight.

Decades ago, during my last hospitalization, the eating disorder was seen as a priority, and the hospital staff tried to get me into a well-respected eating disorder program and study. I wasn't stable enough to attend more than one session, and so I ended up in the 'hopeless case' category, or the one where people say you have to want help to be helped. I wanted help, but I didn't know how to identify my broken leg or quadriplegic state, and others couldn't see it. To get to the sessions, I needed some kind of support system to encourage me to go, to believe it was important and might help, to believe that I was worth helping, and to escort me to sessions. Internally, all of that was missing.

Dr Velvet Thong: So basically that state of personal instability has persisted for all this time but you're not technically dead. That's one long, drawn-out pernicious fatal disease.

Blinky: Yes. And it applies to a lot of things, including whether I could even volunteer to help others who are 'worse off' than me.

Dr Velvet Thong: But you could travel to Australia, and you could travel around the world on your own, so surely that looks inconsistent, especially to people who might realize not all people can travel on their own?

Blinky: It's a different kind of beast, and requires a different kind of psychological 'preparation'.

I think it makes sense that based on my past experiences, having contact with doctors and hospitals can trigger a PTSD reaction which no one identifies. I don't have a basic level of trust in this area. And, I don't really trust that I can be helped, and in addition to that, I might not be good at fighting unconscious judgments that I don't 'deserve' treatment or even to live.

But travel.. that's the unknown, that's where 'life' is 'possible', and so to focus (a short-term burst of) energy to achieve that makes a kind of sense.

Dr Velvet Thong: Is the best place to start to stop drinking?

Blinky: I realize that most people believe alcoholics lie to themselves and others and live in denial..

But if I try to sum up my situation, it's not that I just didn't notice as alcohol was becoming more and more of a problem, and somehow I lost my life, job, friends.

If I give up alcohol, we have a wac-a-mole situation, and the countdown begins as to when another addiction will pop up in its place. Alcohol isn't the primary addiction.

I only resorted to alcohol because I had no clue as to how to live. Take alcohol out of the equation, and there is still the pattern of addiction, along with the underlying damaged foundation/belief system, and a kind of personal instability that feels like panic. It's probably bad to use that word (panic), because then people think ah, let's get her some meds. It's probably better to describe it as the lack of a belief system which can help me become anchored in life in a practical way. It's 'scary' to realize how difficult it is to find anything to live for. But once I give up alcohol, without attaining immediate 'focus', I fall into caffeine-sugar abuse that is pretty extreme, and if I manage to avoid that, it's only a matter of time before the eating disorder is triggered again. The return of disordered eating is the state I fear most, the one with fewest rewards and the most severe punishment.

If I decide that it's better to do something to try to change my situation, even if only temporarily, for variety's sake, it seems the best place to start is to give up alcohol, and then the pattern can manifest in one of the following ways:

1. Within a few days, I am 'focused' enough to start 'improving' my situation. Technically, it starts out 'healthy' or would seem so to the casual observer. I try to nourish myself well, I begin to exercise, I try to start compensating for whatever might be compromised with my health. I can't attain this kind of focus if I am drinking coffee. Caffeine/sugar detox is a real bitch for me, but a necessary step in giving up alcohol. I have to be prepared to go without any 'pickmeups', 'rewards', 'energy boosts', as well as relaxation, for an extended period. It would be insane of me to think I could do it forever, but I go in thinking I'll do it as long as I possibly can, so as to consciously create contrast and the possibility of pleasure again.

Sometimes, I can only do this for a short time, days or a few weeks, and then I go back to alcohol and caffeine. I feel the most 'hopeful' when I've managed to attain enough focus to go without for an extended period. I feel I have at least some control when I am trying to 'do something' about my life and unhappiness. However, if we look at the pattern over the course of my life, I have only been able to maintain this kind of control for short periods, even though in the past I did not go into it thinking I'd eventually revert to addictive behaviour. I went in thinking I was giving it up for good, and was proven wrong, over and over and over, so, I (eventually) adjusted my expectations. Don't forget, this pattern started when I was 13, and in the first years, I put in massive efforts to focus and have a life, I was much less jaded, and I had the energy and strength of youth on my side.

The most successful times have lasted anywhere from 10 weeks to 8 months, and these times in my life tend to stick out as leading to the most 'postive' and memorable periods. But, it is unrealistic given the record that I can attain this state indefinitely, and part of that is because the only way to motivate myself is to make lists of things I might still want to do in life. And now, on those lists, I can't keep alcohol or caffeine out of them. There's going to be a crash; the only question is when.

As I get healthier and physically stronger, I will restrict caloric intake and increase physical exercise, if I can, gauging how my body is handling it all/responding. At my current age, 1000-1200 calories per day seems to be fine, and I try to make sure my choices are as nutrient-dense as possible. When I first give up alcohol and caffeine, though, I find it necessary to start off with a much higher caloric intake - 2000 calories per day, until I start to feel my system regaining a kind of balance, and then I slowly taper down.

When I hit a plateau, then I will introduce phases of increased restricting, but sometimes in monitoring my body's reactions, I sense things are becoming too extreme, and so I go back to 1000-1200, or even slightly higher until it feels it's all 'in balance'. Also, if by this time a few months have gone by, I will start wanting to go out, so there might be days where I have a higher caloric intake, and I think of it as 'positive' to go out to lunch or something, but the rule is: no alcohol, no caffeine. It's still not really 'unhealthy' to the casual observer. It seems like I am 'getting my shit together'. And, I am still in control.

At this point, I might be able to fit into some clothing that is a really low size (0-4 Canadian/American, 6 Australian), but I don't really look that size, and so we get into the more fucked up parts.

I wanted to note something before continuing: my mother and sister might look better at a higher weight because of their head/face size and shape. I notice that in wearing wigs, with very thick hair, that seem to add size to my head, in the overall sense I look more proportional, even when 'fat'. A 'socialist beauty' principle, maybe if there was some other way to get me up to a certain level of beauty, I wouldn't focus as much on fitness and weight, but there is a certain level I personally need to reach in order to feel comfortable 'enough' in my own skin. So, on that front, I would say that wearing wigs and hats contributes to my mental health and makes personal grooming rituals less time consuming and traumatic.

Continuing on..

Once I'm at that phase, it's usually a question of how long before I lose control. I've often planned trips to sort of get me 'launched' into the world before I lose it, so I have a chance to enjoy my 'hard work'. When I was younger, I could get it together quicker, and that's maybe partly because I could gauge my body's reactions and how much it could take. In the past, even with a slightly higher calorie count, I could do a lot of exercise, which produced results quickly. I'm not sure how much was about being really in tune with my body, or how much was fear, but in later years, with the drinking, I would think maybe it was too 'dangerous' too push harder/faster factoring in the alcohol consumption, and what effects it might have had on my system.

While I'm in control, I've always vaguely had the sense that 'maybe this time can be different, maybe I can keep going'. And then my illusions are shattered again and again, even when after I begin to lose control I keep trying to tell myself, it's one slip, it doesn't undo everything, try again. I have even tried to break the pattern in other ways, like immediately going on a trip. But it doesn't work, and there's a period of extremely unhealthy out of control behaviour, and then it sort of stabilizes at a slightly less unhealthy level. Eventually, though, I think during one of these extreme relapse periods there's a good chance of a crisis requiring hospitalization.

2. If after I stop drinking I don't attain focus within a few days, I go into a crazy caffeine-sugar mode. My food intake is fine, I can eat 'normally', even 'healthily', aside from the massive skim soy mocha lattes. I feel constant unease. My weight might be relatively stable, but it's too 'high', it's 'unattractive', and it means I don't want to do any of the things on my 'lists'. If this phase goes on too long, I risk very unpleasant stomach pain.

3. I haven't done this in years, so I don't know if I even can. But, no alcohol, no caffeine, just 'eating naturally'. My weight would be as in 2., with all the associated issues except stomach pain. What is more likely, although I suppose this is just a projection, is that the bulimia would resurface, because the underlying pattern of addiction dictates that I need 'release', or it feels like there is a kind of pressure that never goes away, even after months or years. If after a year at a 'healthy' but unattractive weight, with no b/p episodes I assess that I haven't had any pleasure in that year, it doesn't seem likely to me I will ever feel pleasure, no matter how long I keep going. So, I can't keep it up.

The state I like best is 1. (correction: the very brief part after 1., when I've lost control, but can momentarily enjoy it - that's as close as I get to pleasure), but it's really hard to attain. Also, I'm really scared of the crashes. The most 'hopeful' thing I guess would be to get into this phase, get out of the house, and get to some place where I could talk to someone about these patterns before I crash and isolate myself. I can't make it as simple as 'I'm ready to make changes, please help me figure out how to attain the changes I desire'.. it is more like 'I have a window, I would like my life to change, but I think I need to try to talk about the options, and try to figure out how realistic it might be that I can change or if there is any realistic way I can find a kind of life I actually want'. And I'm not sure, but it could be that psychologists are wary of my type, and don't think I'm 'ready' enough or 'positive' enough. And so I'm not sure if the Catch-22 is obvious enough.

4. I accept that drinking is the best solution, and this might even reduce the total number of episodes, since I'm not always trying to force 'New Year's Eve'. Drinking is better than b/p behaviour. I at least have some fun and a reduction in the sharpness of consciousness, and I seem to be good enough at monitoring 'day after health' that I experience less discomfort with a hangover than I did with b/p behaviour. If weight is similar anyway, then it does seem the more attractive option. And, since the things I wanted on my previous lists came with conditions, and an important one related to youth and attractiveness, my maximum potential, since that is no longer available to me, the way to have a 'meaningful' existence might be to try to drink and write/create.

I think though that I have reached some other conclusion that I didn't before when I was completely willing to just say my existence has been shit, it would be better if I had never existed, it would be fine to die at any time. If there could be a world in which I got to be young and attractive, and in which if I still had all the addiction issues but there were no consequences to appearance or health, I might at least for a time find life intriguing enough to explore. If I could choose from any university in any time period, and sit in on classes, I could possibly begin to pick up a few things I originally wanted to learn but was too fucked up to go to school. If a person could travel anywhere, visit any era, I mean, even if I still have meaning of life issues that can't be resolved, I think it's possible I could manage to live longer.

4. Obviously is not realistic, because I think my addictions are escalating, and my health might not hold up. It's like I 'need' a more 'hopeful' 1. phase occasionally to balance the whole.

5. If I try to do something 'productive', say get an online degree in Psychology and then go from there to continue learning, I will be dealing with the underlying pattern still, and any course I take will come with an underlying addictive pattern of behaviour that's about getting to some finish line. Alcohol and caffeine would be a major part of trying to 'accomplish' this. I would keep trying to reach milestones with the promise of rewards - and I would be thinking that at graduation, there'd be a major 'breakdown'. I might reason it's better to try, and I've used this reasoning with other 'accomplishments', like finishing new websites, doing work on the house, even planning trips, but there is a kind of pressure to the pattern that's very unpleasant. The lists of my 'accomplishments' over the years are impressive in some ways, but more predominant is the wish to just stop the cycle and be done with it all at last.

I think I've managed to get the basics down, and the thing is that when it comes to psychologists, I'm not sure how many could understand these basics. But if it's something obvious, and they refuse to explain it me, I think that really sucks. 'All addicts think exactly like you, it's not big news'. Er, so what do I do?

If I was prescribed meds of any kind, it would have to occur in a 1. phase, and then monitoring might be difficult. I would have to feel trust with a doctor pretty much immediately, or I wouldn't be so likely to go back. I'd need to feel there was the potential to talk in-depth. Most of those I've talked to in the past only heard small parts of the story, and even when they tried to address different aspects of my problems with different types of therapy, it didn't seem like anyone was overseeing the whole operation, someone with insight into how all the different conditions impacted one another. The prescribing doctor I suppose is the one with that overview, but I've never talked to any of them for more than short periods of time, and I didn't actually trust that they did have more than a very simple overview of my situation.

It is possible that meds might be needed to bring me up somewhat, sort of like addressing a nutritional deficiency by loading certain things for a while, but I think such efforts are likely to fail without a good understanding of the underlying patterns and beliefs.

If my beliefs about myself and my appearance don't change, I don't think any amount of meds would get me out of the house. I think the problem has more to do with beliefs than anxiety. Meds that help me feel less depressed or give me more energy wouldn't be likely to help if my weight stayed the same. I would be in one of the situations above that feels like 'limbo' and in which I don't really want to do things on my lists.

I probably wouldn't be able to give up alcohol in order to take meds. And if I were on meds, and did not feel a doctor or therapist had much interest in talking to me, if I felt my situation bored that person and I was not likely to ever get the validation or ackknowledgment I feel I need, I'd bail, become alienated. If I felt the person was just waiting for the meds to do their magic, that eventually I'd discover I was enjoying life and didn't need to talk about all the unnecessary stuff, I'd feel extremely alienated. The pattern would overwhelm the process, I'd withdraw and fall into one of the states above, most likely a drinking one. I feel I need a validation regarding my experience and my insights.

Dr Velvet Thong: You do see why professionals might not think you 'want' help, or think you have to at least be ready to give up alcohol before they can start helping you?

Blinky: Am I supposed to agree it's because I have a bad attitude, am in denial or just being stubborn? When I give up alcohol, I use every ounce of my energy to do it, and when I lose it, I just don't see any way to get it back. I think it's about internalized beliefs and lack of internal support. Maybe this is the very definition of a hopeless case? There isn't enough of a foundation to build from and we can't rebuild from scratch, it's too late?

Dr Velvet Thong: Have you tried meditation?

Blinky: When it comes to things like meditation, I do that as best I can on my own, I do have my own centreing process, but otherwise, it's just not achievable for me to attend classes or seek out gurus. I'm probably not finding the right words to explain it to people when I try, and I just keep repeating that I don't have the minimum level of personal stability to manage that kind of thing.

The last time I went to Melbourne, I contacted a psychologist, and ideally, if I had been able to start going then, I might have been able to begin a long range plan to live on my own there.

Dr Velvet Thong: What happened with that?

Blinky: The psychologist I contacted didn't reply to my email, and it was too difficult to be pushy.

Dr Velvet Thong: And that's not the first time that has happened to you, and so I suppose here we are.

Blinky: When I read things online about eating disorders, it really stresses me out. On Yahoo UK there was an article regarding an increase in eating disorders in increasingly younger children. When I read the comments below the article, it seemed to me that a lot of people still do not really know what an eating disorder is.

There were comments about the media and music videos, and mothers who babble on and on about diets, but there were also a lot of comments related to 'spoiling children', giving them too much choice with food, and allowing them to behave like brats. There were also comments that seemed to focus in on the childhood obesity issues, pretty much saying we need to be honest with kids, not coddle them.

There were comments about selfishness, and how kids need to be taught to think about others - for example, that their silliness with food will cost a lot in medical resources.

And I just thought yikes, these attitudes sure have helped me a lot through the years with my eating disorder. As if I didn't have enough guilt. Do I really have less insight, am I really someone who isn't capable of trying as hard or being as responsible as the people who make these sorts of comments?

Dr Velvet Thong: Try to remember that we came to the conclusion it was best for you to try to automatically block this kind of noise. The most 'pro-active' way you can deal with it is to try to articulate your own experience and observations, but to be selective about where.

Blinky: In the last few months we had contact, when I returned from Australia and was trying to go through the process of applying for disability in Toronto, part of Gandhi's disgust related to my eating disorder. I think in large part it was like at that point he felt backed up by society's opinion and disgust with eating disorders, and even though bulimia was a clear diagnosis of mine, it was like it had no real meaning in the face of his and society's disgust. Our relationship had broken up, and it was clear he wanted the friendship to end, unless I could just snap out of the eating disorder. He'd seen it for 7 years, and was tired of it. He didn't want me to waste any more money on food, because he was ready to invest everything into his future. I was beyond embarrassed about not being able to control it.

I felt embarrassed, because it is wasteful and it does cost money to engage in an eating disorder, and the more pressure I felt to stop the behaviour so it wouldn't cost more, the harder it was to stop, and for those 4 months, I was badly out of control.

I came back to Canada at about 105 lbs, and it wasn't long before I had gained a certain amount, and kept yoyoing, bingeing and then fasting. I had no self-confidence, I didn't go out anywhere on my own except to buy food, and to try to apply for disability. I didn't have alcohol even once - that wouldn't have occurred to me, it just wasn't my thing back then, I needed all money for food binges and rent. I did actually budget binges.. Loblaws Superstores were great for buying snack type foods in bulk. It was $9.99 to have a large pizza and Coke delivered from PizzaPizza, but that was the only takeaway I had at that time.

It is difficult when those who care about you most look at you with disgust. I think the hopelessness of it is part of what makes it seem like the only answer is to die. No one will really love you; how could they?

When the suicide attempt at 16 was dismissed as nothing more than a pathetic attempt at manipulation, right there is when things became the most hopeless, probably.

I guess my idea of myself was that I was a 'good kid' with a 'promising future', and that I actually complained less than most kids, was less bitchy than most kids, and so something had to be really bad for me to go off the rails, and I kept wanting someone with authority to recognize it, and no one did, and so that became an identity I was never comfortable with, that I was always just a dud. It took years, decades, to even begin to question how serious the suicide attempt was - even on a.s.h it was like I had been brainwashed into downplaying it, but I know now that even before the string of events that occurred just after I got out of the hospital, I had no idea how to cope, and that was what had led to the attempt. I couldn't see myself being able to cope with the amount of stress and tension I was living with, I couldn't see any way to have or plan for a life. It was already that bad at 15, and it was a fullblown addiction. It wasn't a momentary blip. Something was wrong or broken already, and it was never resolved, and I'm still there in that place.

And I feel mean bringing it up, but I think it's an important part of the story, and it shows that even 'nice' people, intellectuals can find themselves extremely angry when it comes to the implications of whatever it is that's wrong with me that doesn't have a diagnosis or any validation/acknowledgement: Don Quixote could become so angry with me, so frustrated, that he cracked my ribs. I did not then, and I have never used physical violence with him, even to defend myself.

People say that abusers will always do it again, and so if someone only does it the once, then maybe it's a special occasion, and it's because someone really deserved it, because the nice, understanding person was pushed past their limit. Again, I'm the exception. It's not because people don't understand depression or how isolated I was; it's probably because I did something I'm not willing to own up to? Something that would cause any long-suffering decent person to snap?

But at that stage we had been together a few years, I had tried to explain as well as I could, and I was actually extremely self- conscious about how much I had cost him over time, and I was worried about him getting stuck with me. I had tried to live on my own, but I wasn't any closer to having a job or social life, and in another half a year or so, I just wouldn't have had money left. There was no long- range plan in place, I couldn't apply for benefits in Australia, especially considering all the lies to get the visa, and meanwhile, that whole process and meeting everyone else in Australia just reinforced that everyone suspected I was a deadbeat he was better off without, and who wants trash like that in our country, etc.

When the only person who 'cares' about you gets so mad at your condition that he breaks your bones, doesn't it seem to make sense that it 'feels' like you need some kind of acknowledgement from the world regarding your condition, whatever it is? And if you don't get that, then it seems like people are judging you and looking down on you? And that if you can't bring it up, people might remain unaware of their hidden beliefs and prejudices?

Dr Velvet Thong: Sometimes people with eating disorders have early onset osteoporosis. Maybe it wouldn't have taken much to break your ribs?

Blinky: I wondered about that, but even at age 49, the first time I ever had a bone density scan, my bones had a normal-to-high density.

It fucking sucks to be the disgusting leech others can't get rid of. I tried to warn him, but it's like the pattern is so strong.

The Bumble set the example for family that physical violence, anger, disgust and embarrassment were appropriate reactions to my depression/condition. They internalized it, but I could feel it in their silence, and their refusal to challenge The Bumble, when he said things like: 'Get a fucking job, you fucking loser!'

It feels to me that if I try to disturb the status quo, the whole family would be likely to band together to put me in my place, and that's why I felt so much guilt and kept destroying what I wrote over the years.. I feared retribution. When the response to your feelings and assessments is anger, the world ganging up on you, it's not much of an incentive to have feelings or speak.

I can't just keep repeating about how isolated I am and that maybe it would be better for both of us to try to get me settled in Melbourne, or that I need someone to believe it would be valuable for me to have someone to talk to, and without that kind of support, it just reinforces that nothing can be done and everyone just waits for me to die, and I try to act as if it's not excruciating.

Dr Velvet Thong: More than that is reinforced. All of your issues with appearance as well. As long as you don't leave the house because you are uncomfortable with your appearance, if it's not challenged or questioned, it is a kind of reinforcement of all your harmful beliefs.

Blinky: Let's not forget though that I don't have actual occasions to go outside. That is part of the issue now. I don't get invitations, I don't have social connections or obligations, and in order to go out, I have to consciously choose to, and meanwhile, I live in a place that I don't find culturally or socially stimulating/intriguing.

But back to appearance issues and beliefs and reinforcement.. when we met, Don Quixote said it was probably a good thing I wasn't more beautiful, because if I had been, he probably wouldn't have been able to control himself from begging me to marry him the second I stepped off the plane.

Dr Velvet Thong: A true incentive to put up with mental illness, maybe.. You said that Gandhi and Vlad had also agreed that they could be happy with someone who was 'pretty, but stupid'.

Blinky: When Gandhi told me that, I realized he wasn't happy.

Dr Velvet Thong: Don Quixote was a very inexperienced male, and so you had to cut him some slack, not expect he'd never put his foot in his mouth.

Blinky: Yes, that's true, and I really did try, but over time, I knew that I was never going to be special 'enough' to feel special. Underneath it all, we were both invested in 'saving him' for someone 'better'. I wasn't tough enough to keep bracing myself and so I steered us toward focusing on the friendship.

In the early years, and all through the years, I tried to write up things to make sure I wasn't pushing things further into dependence, and I had suggestions, like take me to the ocean, that there will be times when I can't bring stuff up myself, and at that point, you need to know what to say. But he could never remember. And after all these years, I would say every time I tried to give up alcohol or start losing weight that I couldn't be asked questions about preparing meals, and again and again, I wrote, I typed, I said by mouth, a list of things that were 'ok', and just prepare it at the right time, don't ask, just do, (and if it's not done by a certain time, I'll make something myself) and he couldn't do it. He sometimes can now, but he still needs to ask if it's ok a lot of the time, and I'm so worn out that I realize I just can't win these battles. And so I have to accept that these things are as hard for him as my issues are for me and the only way to survive here is not to dwell on those things, but to try to praise him for what he does well, and to try to wait until something new happens, and hope that it won't be as disastrous this time. And hope that this time when he truly feels society's support he won't look at me with disgust, that I won't have to go through that again. But it's not like I want society to turn on him or those I have known.. I mean, I know they're better than most people. I know I'm a horror. I'm ok with the majority taking his and my family's side. I guess I just would hope that a few people would get what I'm saying. And not think it's nothing.

It is like he's got a crazy wife in the attic. When he's here, it's 'normal', and it's probably better to have someone than be alone, but if he had to talk about me to others out there, I think he'd be embarrassed of me, and not find it easier than I do to talk about what I 'do'. I suspect that when he does talk to others they already know it's a weird subject for him and so they don't pressure him, but the unspoken thing is that the subject is embarrassing for everyone, or at least that's my impression. They might feel sorry for him. I doubt he uses any situations as a platform to discuss mental health issues or rights, and he probably participates in perpetuating silence and stigma. The article about the delusion of gainful employment that he wrote.. I find myself wondering if he was consciously thinking about me, or something/someone else as he wrote it? That might sound weird, but the thing is, I don't know, and I wouldn't be surprised if there's a disconnect. Does he believe my contributions are equal to his in this household? How would he describe it, if he had to? 1:25 or so?

What would it take for the daily civility to be torn away? Will he one day curse me, his unconscious assessment bursting through? It hasn't happened to that extent, the broken bones, for a long time and so maybe it means we've both learned something, but what if it's just a resignation to hopelessness? While I have no validation aside from his, even his will remain suspect, and I think that makes sense. I am not 'free' in my position to care for anyone, to have a real choice.

Dr Velvet Thong: He's not, either. Sometimes there is no choice but to try to live in an impossible situation as best you can.

Blinky: There isn't anyone I care about more than him, and I know I would feel sad, very sad if anything happened to him, and I do hope that I die first.

But I think my other relationships, with family, have been eroded by the impossibility of the situation. I guess I'm just not explaining it well enough, or maybe I'm a lousy person, but the amount of discomfort I continue to experience is 'too much' for me to be able to believe that anyone truly 'cares'.

And there's also the disloyalty angle. It seems nasty or unfair somehow to describe all my grievances, as if it's something you just don't do. And if you wonder if others experience something similar and would benefit from hearing your story, that might just seem like a sleazy way to rationalize being a petty little traitor. That's what eroded your relationships, you nitwit!

Dr Velvet Thong: Maybe this does indeed relate to stigma.

Blinky: In descriptions of BDD, the 'professionals' seem to suggest that the person with bdd is blowing things out of proportion, that they are seeing something about themselves that is an exaggeration.

But, if you look at the comments people make on Yahoo on a daily basis, these people with BDD might have picked up on assessments that some members of the public make about their personal appearance, or that most people think but don't say, kind of like ugly baby syndrome, where everyone knows they have to say 'how cute'. One way of dealing with the problem might be to try to figure out if the person with BDD can pinpoint the people who hold these views, or figure out why certain people's impressions might be important to them. Is it the opinion of someone they cared about? Is it the opinion of someone they wanted to like and respect them? And does this get hidden from awareness and transferred onto the public at large? Is it about not recognizing that they don't actually respect the people who hold such opinions, or that they haven't had the chance to communicate with these people, to get to know where their opinions come from?

Dr Velvet Thong: In your case, these questions are obviously rhetorical.

Blinky: In my family, in person, the first thing people will notice is if you are fit or not. Yes, they'll 'accept' you if you're fat, but it's like there's an unconscious score keeping, a pattern that was set by The Bumble and other relatives. When I get people on my playing field, (typing, writing) I can see my identity, I know I'm saying something, but in person, it's like everyone conspires to prevent me seeing that. Why should I put myself in that position?

Dr Velvet Thong: I have seen a pattern in many of my patients, and I think there is a lot of undiagnosed BDD out there. Maybe we need a better term for it, and maybe I should coin it. But because there is a hidden moral judgment against being too concerned with one's appearance, almost no one will admit they are ashamed or afraid to do some things because they are having trouble dealing with some aspect of their appearance.

Blinky: In movies or tv, people have stable weights, or the fluctuations are only described in certain ways, and not as an ongoing horrific battle that gives them no peace. It's usually more black and white, not constant fluctuations, and constant struggle, or you accept it with humour. This is something it's important to try harder to express, because most people really can't grasp it, or grasp how it's missing from what's portrayed on tv. The fact that characters usually have a stable identity includes that they have a stable weight, and it's probably in their contract to stay at that weight, unless there's a plot development that helps them work weight gain in, like a pregnancy. The message this gives, when repeated over time, is that fluctuations point to something unappealing and unacceptable. People like to gossip about the weight gain of stars when not working, but still, the official storytelling, the stories validated to help us all psychologically to process our lives and experiences and what it all means, in these official stories, this is an aspect usually left out.

Dr Velvet Thong: The message is that fluctuating weight is something that should be of minor importance or something completely unimportant if someone really loves 'you', not something that rules your life.

Blinky: When you apply for ID, height, weight, hair and eye colour are all supposedly 'givens' that help others to legally identify you. Can you have a stable sense of self if you don't know how to describe your weight? And if your programming tells you not to create negative self-fulfilling prophecies? If you have to commit to a piece of ID for 5-10 years, do you go with probabilities and give a higher weight, or do you hold out the hope that you can bring it down and keep it there, be someone who is 'looking after herself', not 'letting herself go'? If I only travel when my weight is lower, and that's when I'm likely to have my passport on me, then shouldn't I choose a lower weight?

Dr Velvet Thong: There are mixed messages. If men snag a hot woman, they are 'lucky' and people can understand why they'd be 'happy'. If you 'let yourself go', don't be surprised if he looks elsewhere. 40 is young for a man. What is it to be 'unlucky'? 'Unhappy'? Every time people repeat phrases that relate to how 'lucky' someone is to have snagged an attractive mate, a slim one, a young one, a large-breasted one, if we keep equating this with happiness, then the subconscious subtext is always present in society, and it makes sense for people to become unhappy with unattractive females, or to start feeling unhappy as they age or stop meeting requirements. It's about trying to make different language choices, in order to consciously challenge the status quo, which might also have ripple effects at other levels, language choices which honour the sentience of women, no matter what their personal appearance.

Blinky: Whenever I went out for food with anyone, I would usually try to be open to their suggestions, because I needed some kind of guidance or new input. It probably looked like I lacked assertiveness, and it was partly about that, but it was mostly that I was completely lost and had no language to express how difficult it was for me to deal with any kind of food. 'Whatever I eat, I'm just going to go home and eat a ton more after we say good night.' You instinctively know you shouldn't inflict that on people. It took a long time to start to try to make conscious choices, and it did lead to change, but the process was long and arduous.

I did figure out that junk food represented a certain comfort zone that I didn't know how to step out of. It was a kind of food that didn't require me to have to wash dishes or do the prep, but what I really wanted was a variety of social and cultural experiences, and the opportunity to try different foods in those settings. I had a major social deficit, starting in my teens. My contacts could not connect me to the kinds of experiences I wanted. Bingeing became a way to express both the deficit and a feeling of having no control over my life. I was acting it out, in distress, hoping some authority figure would notice. I eventually had to become my own authority figure or parent, but I've never been strong or resourceful enough to take it far enough.

I'm still not sure many people could understand what a relief it is to be able to figure out what you want to eat each day, and keep it to a certain amount, after decades of feeling totally out of control. For me, it feels like a step forward to have replaced the food addiction with alcohol, but maybe it's not. I get more out of it, and it's less distressing, but the addiction is still powerful and destructive, the underlying structure or pattern or pressure is the same, and I still have all the same issues with weight and body image. I've had a wider variety of social and cultural experiences now, but not enough experiences on an ongoing basis, and alcohol compensates for an inability to truly connect with people or life.

Dr Velvet Thong: The pattern.

Blinky: The Bumble got stuck with me, Gandhi got stuck with me, Don Quixote is now stuck with me. If I try to focus all my energy to leave, I can never stay gone for long, because I don't have enough internal or external resources, and I still don't really 'desire' to live.

It's just not realistic for me to get a paying job, or to apply for disability in Australia.

Dr Velvet Thong: Basically, in order to get a permanent resident visa, you learned it was necessary to hide your history, to say you were in fact perfectly capable of working fulltime, and in order to protect members of Don Quixote's family, all your personal details and the history of where the two of you met had to be fudged, so they were taking on less risk in making statutory declarations?

And, in the 17 years you've been in the country, there is no history of you seeking therapy. In a sense you are consistent with the original terms under which you were accepted to this country?

Blinky: In a nutshell, yes. It always seemed unfair to everyone to gain entry and then start going for therapy, and besides, I wasn't even stable enough to attend therapy, and I didn't really at this stage hold out much hope therapy would help, and I kept hoping I'd die before I became too inconvenient for everyone concerned who tried to help get me a visa, and that is now long out the window, and certainly doesn't help my self-esteem.

Dr Velvet Thong: Yes, I see that you have no way of validating your 'disability' with Australian authorities. And I have seen their criteria, aside from that, and you don't really fit it, so you really are in a position to become one of the homeless in a few steps, and there wouldn't be anyone to notice, and pretty much everyone would think you deserved it and it was your choice.

Dr Velvet Thong: No other friends or acquaintances?

Blinky: There is no one other than DQ who could vouch for me, or who knows my personal situation, and if anything happens to him, that's it. There's no going back to Canada for me. I have even less support there.

Dr Velvet Thong: Let's address some practical details that most people take for granted.

Do you have a personal phone?

Blinky: 'Normal' life involves serious mobile phone use. What is it like in contrast to not really check a phone or gets calls if you're not a Luddite, or a Nature fanatic? This also ties in to the whole 'ties to life' issue, getting invitations, and also not even 'needing' to check one's email.

I had one up until late July 2017, but it was not really for personal phonecalls. It was mainly for travel and emergencies, and 'just in case' I ever had social reasons for it. As it turned out, I never did in all the time I had it. I never really learned how to use it, and I even had trouble remembering my phone number. It was a flip phone. It was a 2 G phone with a 3 G sim and they cancelled the 2 G network. The sim was standard size, not micro or nano, but I probably could have used it in a 3 G flip phone. I decided it might be better to think ahead, so I got a Chinese clone phone, a phone I could use for texting, and set about getting a new sim from the phone company. It was a horrible nightmare, and in the end, I started saying 'look, I'm agoraphobic, I'm totally fucked without a phone, I can't come in to verify my identity, can I fax you a copy of my passport' they agreed, but when I looked at the photocopy I couldn't go through with it. They probably thought they had craftily outmaneuvered a scammer; I realized I was probably well and truly fucked now. I had had a Plan B, but the distress of looking at my passport made that plan seemed pointless. I gave up on trying to get a phone, and in many ways since then, it's been a relief. I gave the clone phone to Don Quixote to practice with. He can use his own chip in it. I thought maybe if I had another period of going out eventually I might one day just stop in and get a new account/phone number with a new company, but after a few outings in early 2018 I became housebound again, chained to this manuscript, and it seemed to me the repercussions of that might last some time. So I'm phoneless, and fucked.

I've never had a personal visitor in the 17 years I've lived in DQ's house. That's not an exaggeration. His family members stayed here a couple of days before the wedding, and then some years later his sister and her husband came to stay for a couple of days at a time I chose to leave and stay in a hotel.

I have not once in all this time spoken to anyone from my biological family on the phone, or anyone from Canada. One person from online texted me a couple of times, never anything regular, and one person I think called once to listen to a recording of me? But a few years ago there was a period where I spoke to some people online with a mic, through voicechat applications, and I think the sound quality was better than anything I have heard here on mobile phones.

Dr Velvet Thong: In 17 years, that doesn't sound like much social interaction.

Blinky: Nothing ever really goes very far, because there isn't a solid foundation for me to build sustainable relationships upon. That is one aspect of 'mental illness' that might be difficult to understand, because it seems a person 'chooses' isolation, and brings it upon themselves.

In recent years, I don't even go online much any more. After my experiences in relation to an online dating agency for the mentally ill, I've withdrawn further from social contact. It might be part of a cyclical thing with me, but part of the pattern is that those I live with don't seem to recognize it's any big deal, even if I try to explain it is.

Dr Velvet Thong: How often do you have contact with others online?

Blinky: Aside from correspondence that is necessary when buying something online, not much - and that type is usually uncomfortable, because I have to use my legal name so as not to confuse things with credit card details and whatnot. It's artificial communication. I think Boo is uncomfortable with me now, either because he just doesn't know what to say, or he himself has personal problems and the family approach is to withdraw. I easily go months without contact, or more. Boo and I have contact maybe once a year, or less now. I usually send him a tarot reading.

Dr Velvet Thong: What do you think others make of it?

Blinky: That it's 'normal' for me, and that I am the only one who can solve my own problems.

While I am here, there is something I wanted to bring up about The Bumble and his effects on family philosophy.

My sense that I am an embarrassment is distinct from how I bring shame on the family in another way. In bringing up family patterns and harping on some of the things people have done or said, a 'crime' has been committed. I think The Bumble had a lot of trouble ever being 'wrong', and so he controlled what others thought, and only sought out those who would never think he was wrong, would never challenge him if he was, or weren't powerful enough that he'd ever publicly lose face.

Dr Velvet Thong: Basically, he feared being wrong because it was something shameful to him, and it meant a loss of control and power over others, but underneath that, he had some kind of belief that it was shameful to be 'stupid', and his instinct was to retaliate with as much force and rage as he could to try to prevent this sort of thing, or as 'revenge'.

He passed this on to all the others. You can imagine that no family or small community particularly likes to be portrayed in unflattering ways by a fiction writer or screenwriter or whatever, but I think in your family, this situation is on steroids, and I don't know if your family members could get past the instinctual rage they'd feel in you trying to tell your story. I think your instinct that they'd try to band together to 'prove you wrong' is probably correct, and in fact they already learned from The Bumble how effective silence/The Quiet Game is in undermining a particular family member's status and respect, including self-respect. Because they don't know they have an underlying belief that it is shameful to ever be wrong or behave badly, or to even try to look at the 'negative' things in trying to understand them and perhaps change. They will focus on details you have wrong, as if it means everything you say is wrong, because really what you are doing is questioning everyone's identity and history, and to see the overview you are putting forth might not just be upsetting, it could be devastating. And you've seen how the person most likely to accept everyone and cut people slack will try to stand up for the underdog: when you questioned The Bumble's heroic status in relation to a stepbrother, Boo was quick to jump in with a True Story of how The Bumble had rescued this brother by 'getting' him a job, and you had suspected this would happen, and you'd already had an email ready to go to explain the sordid truth of the situation. I can imagine you have responses to a lot of the family myths, but it probably seems pretty overwhelming to have responses in advance for all of them. And that it would indeed feel like you were taking on the world. And I think it makes sense that before you die, you'd want to at least try to tackle a few of these things.

So you're trying to take on this massive job for the whole family, to help them see it, and see that they don't have to 'save face', because it's not about that, it's about trying to identify structural problems that are detrimental to the survival of the family as a system, flaws that are likely to be passed on to future generations if they are not addressed.

Blinky: I think Mother Bumble lived with a bomb shelter mentality, and that between working for Laura Secord and the money that had been saved at the time of her husband's death, she lived with a kind of stress in having to figure out how to make it last until her death. As far as I know, she managed.

I once realized that she was afraid to talk to her landlord for small repairs, afraid that as an older woman on her own, she might be evicted or retaliated against, and I think this was an approach she had to a lot of things in life, and she passed these things on. The Bumble was a 'bad son' for not talking to the landlord or helping her get things fixed, and maybe her daughter was a 'bad daughter', too, but maybe they all suffered from fear of confronting some things in life, and tried to keep their heads down. Apathy, plus fear of rocking the boat.

Mother Bumble was nervous about having to deal with authorities of any kind, and she also didn't want to ever have to go to a home. I don't think she could have dealt with learning how to invest money, or consulting lawyers, and I think this might have something to do with why when I was 21 and she was about 74, I'll check, she said that that year for chrismukkah she was going to give us all $1000. She said there wasn't going to be a will or whatever, or that's the sense I got, and so she was going to give us our portion while she was still alive.

I think that was an important contribution. I know at the very least that that money had significant impact on at least my life and Boo's. With that money, he went to buy his first videocamera (I was with him when he went shopping for it) - and he became a cameraman as his profession. With my money, I went to BC, and ended up living away from home for 6 months, when I had been stuck. I am not sure what Cecil and Beany did - Cecil might have put it into his education fund, and Beany might have spent some when she and Jean-Claude went to Europe to visit his Dutch and Belgian relatives.

I remember when I was visiting, she made a comment about not buying green bananas, and at 21, I didn't really know what to say, and so said nothing, like most people in my family still would (before you really think about death, you say nothing, you say things like 'oh, you'll live a long time yet', or 'let's not be negative, did someone piss on your cheerios today'), but I think what I have said today relates to the reasoning behind it all. She couldn't deal with lawyers. She was isolated, and she was still trying to stretch out her money. She thought she could die at any time; she didn't know for sure. If she died at 88, she lived approximately 14 years past the date of 'making plans as best she could'. Grampa Smurf's will had been dated a really long time before his death. Both planned ahead as well as they could.

I have already lived something like 28 years past the 'green banana' stage, and I think part of what's underneath that is a feeling that I've never been able to plan for a future, and that's a big part of why I felt I was in the green banana state.

Dr Velvet Thong: All of your family members like to watch movies, right? Well, in order for movies to exist, you first need writers, and writers need inspiration.

Blinky: Yes, but we don't all like the same types of movies, and so they might not appreciate how I use inspiration.

Also.. another (probably mostly unconscious) family secret: in reading anything I write, most of the members past and present would want to be the star, and so if it all mainly focuses on my perceptions, and they don't get to be the star, they probably won't think much of my writing, they'll all think I don't really get them.

Dr Velvet Thong: Well, everyone is the hero of their own story, and that's as it should be, and maybe you will never be a good enough writer to help others to imagine how that is true when a story is told from your perspective.

When you are finished writing the current story, what are your plans for it?

Blinky: I'll just put it with the Manifesto. I guess you're asking if I'd 'try again', and send a link to the family members who are still alive? Ask for feedback before I make it public?

The Horror of Having a Depressed Significant Other (more about stigma)

Blinky: For social services, Gandhi signed a note saying that for years he had urged me to seek help, but that I had refused. He also mentioned that I had no family to rely on, and that whenever we had visited my family together, he had noticed that I would go into a serious longlasting breakdown state afterward.

He did not come up with this. I did, because I was trying to clarify what I thought they needed to know, but I was actually trying to help myself. He had never urged me to get help, and had never looked into it himself. He had noticed what happened after visiting my family, but he would not have recognized its relevance to applying for disability. In order to get help, I needed the problem to be recognized, and I needed a certain amount of encouragement and support. Unfortunately, I needed someone to find a doctor, make an appointment and tell me they would drive me to and from appointments. I did not know how to ask for this, and so years went by.

The situation had been the same in my family, where the pattern was originally set.

I dictated the note for Gandhi, but he wrote it out by hand. It looked authentic, partly because it was not edited. I thought it best to leave in his spelling and grammatical errors.

I guess I wonder if our relationship is now described by him in ways similar to how resentful ex-spouses of the mental health challenged describe their relationships online. I can really see that he was trapped, and didn't know what to do. But, I can also see that I was able to point out a lot of things that most people with depression are not able to, that I was very open, and that I did say it was very important for him to think about what he wanted. Just before I was about to stop receiving disability because we had lived together for 3 years, I had a serious talk with him, asking him to really think about it, because I would need his help in moving out and the rest. And after that, I did say that although it would be difficult, if things changed with him and the situation wasn't acceptable, we would have to look into applying for disability. But, because he didn't really understand my situation, just as most people don't understand depression, and because he underestimated the process of applying, he put it out of his mind, kept saying things were fine, kept lying about his activities, and waited for an outside force to make the decisions for him.

What I think this underlines is how difficult it is to understand and deal with depression, for both parties. But, my long-term actions, while I was supposedly the irresponsible one, the one not thinking clearly, always had his best interests in mind. I was always performing small actions to try to increase or help increase his connections to life, and I did not try to pull him down with me. I was aware enough that I might have had more success than many others. I encouraged him to go out even when I wasn't going, I supported him, I didn't act resentful, I didn't act suspicious or grill him about his activities. I identified his interests and was often instrumental in supporting him to move forward in pursuing them. Indirectly, through introducing him to my family, many different social and sporting opportunities were available to him, when in the past he had no social life aside from getting stoned and watching tv and playing video games with his friend, including that he ate chips and chocolate bars every night when stoned - which I don't really have a problem with, but he does have type 1 diabetes, and the long-term complications can be ugly. He quit smoking, I participated in different kinds of exercise with him, he ate more nutritious food.. but these are things I suggested and put effort into initiating. He did not put similar effort into my 'health problems'. He was very tolerant, and very compassionate. It is interesting, because people say men are the problem solvers and women just like to talk, but in both my relationships, I think I was putting in much more effort to problem solve. I was thinking about long-term effects, I was planning for their futures.

It does seem to me that in both cases, their approach to 'problem-solving' consisted of short term fixes. Listening compassionately, yes, but mainly getting drugs. Food, movies, alcohol.

At age 25, I had real reasons to be nervous about initiating relationships - but on the surface, Gandhi did not. He felt ok with life. However, I think it's likely that having diabetes affected him in various ways that had made him feel different - he just didn't have conscious access to this, including that he felt insecure about not having firm erections, due to taking insulin regularly. This is another sticky 'stigma' situation. A person with a problem like this 'should not' feel bad, but people's attitudes and ignorance about medical conditions can make it impossible not to. When people thought he was too good-looking, too nice and too successful to be with someone like me, I guess it was related to this unconscious insecurity that made us more 'equal' than we seemed on the surface.

We made do without, but his whole life might have turned out differently if he'd had access to Viagra from a young age. All he needed was a prescription (and I went with him when it became available, but we never tried it out together) and a social network, and that was enough to connect him well to life. My problems were trickier, even though I had more conscious awareness and was more willing to talk.

Anyway.. what this situation has forced me to see I guess is that sometimes attachments sneak up on you, and you might have to draw lines early on. I did try, though. Now, what responsibilities do I have toward possums? Do they care? But if fundamentally I wouldn't have a problem with urban expansion, except that I don't really relate to the human need to keep reproducing, how does that gel with a feeling of responsibility toward possums, and trying to give them good futures, or their descendents? If underneath it all, I've sort of always thought the vegetation here was a lost cause, that maybe you could hold it a while, but never indefinitely, and it isn't a fight that makes sense longterm? It's the story of a lot of Australian wildlife. They've made way for humans, and many are lost. Humans find themselves in the situation of having families sometimes before they even know what they're doing or what they want in life, and then they have responsibilities? In trying to do things differently from my parents, have I still ended up with my own version of it? But I could never tell a possum 'I could be happy without you'. Is that just a reaction that signifies judgment of my father? 'I won't be like you.'? But in my case, possums are not 'the problem', the problem is the personal patterns that make it difficult for me to enjoy life, whatever my circumstances. To let go of possums would be to give up a kind of 'therapy'. I can't get along with people, but I can get along with possums.

There are possums in other parts of the country, and logically, it would have made sense to start again, with a plan to encourage possums? But do I really believe it is a good thing to set a new ball rolling? I think that in having experience with possums, I have learned about something I didn't know was there, something of value like in The Lord of the Rings, that should not be lost. I have played a part in that story. I have taken some of the photos and movies, I kept encouraging Don Quixote until he could carry on with the story. At present, I am still part of the story, and I guess it's a bigger decision now. I am part of something, and on my own, can I adapt and figure out some sense of 'meaning' for myself? My website has been a support to me and a personal sense of meaning, but I think it makes sense to conclude that in following that through as far as I could, I discovered that I am not someone others like or relate to. I don't regret the steps I took. It's like what I have said about Walter White - he's not a very likeable person, but by the end of the series, I think he's 'self-realized' - he has fulfilled his potential, he has 'sounded his barbaric yawp'. Some unlikeable people are still respected for something they have achieved, or are antiheroes. I don't count on anything like that for myself.

And when I mention the possum story, I don't mean that I want to be known as a Possum Woman, wildlife photographer, nature person, conservationist, animal rights activist, and the co-founder of Possum TV. I mean that I need to think carefully, for myself, and what it is possible for me to get out of life, and if that means to continue to interact with the possums here I have a history with. If realistically I have no chance to 'survive' on my own, if there is nothing in life I can see I want, is it better to live out my days here as a cripple?

I guess I could be wrong, but I don't have enough input coming in, new stimuli, to see if there are other ways of looking at it. I don't have 'advisors'.

But when it comes to possums, I think I have successfully contributed to a system of remembering something of value.

Dr Velvet Thong: It is interesting to think that the diversity of Possum TV, the range and health of species, is possible because a suburban property is in a state of 'neglect'. It is wilder and perhaps receives less maintenance than state forest. There are some impressive features, like gum trees of 20-30 m? or more. On one side you've got neighbours with a well-planned, meticulous garden which receives a lot of care, and on the other, a neighbour who hates trees and is growing an automobile garden.

Three very different philosophies all in a row. At least there is good communication with one of the neighbours. He probably is horrified by the garden here in many ways, but it is fortunate he is willing to compromise? What would the majority of those in the neighbourhood say about this property? Would they have a problem with how unkempt it is, would they think it fits in ok, would they support it or would it make them think if they realized it was associated with Possum TV?

The Ugly Epidemic

Report: There is an epidemic of men feeling suicidally depressed because they are married to unattractive women. A committee of experts has banded together and shared their findings.. we need to accept a 'socialist' attitude toward beauty, and we must help all women to attain a certain minimum of beauty that has been found to contribute to a higher quality of life/happiness/contentment.

It is now routine practice for school guidance counsellors to recommend cosmetic procedures for these very reasons, and if a parent argues about how insane it is the counsellor is to shrug and say it's the reality, and the kid is more likely to succeed in university and in a career if they get the procedures.

Dr Velvet Thong: You'd be surprised at how many patients I see who are convinced someone has placed a Fat Curse on them.

Blinky: Do you take their money and promise you can remove it?

Dr Velvet Thong: I don't receive payment for any of my services. I do it because it's more interesting than doing nothing, and there's nothing else I'm qualified to do, even though technically I'm not a qualified psychotherapist or curse remover, either.

Blinky: Sometimes as I feel myself getting fatter, or bloated after a few days of binge drinking, I try to question my beliefs and my discomfort, and imagine what it is like to have been trapped for a lifetime in an overweight or obese body. If I judge myself, do I judge these others? What is the big deal? If I have given up on earning anyone's respect, and I suspect no one finds me physically or mentally attractive, even at my 'best', then isn't it just a state of being to explore? And if it's natural for me and my body, why not just drink, and not think of it as 'drinking myself to death', but as taking a stand, to do something I enjoy, for the rest of my life?

I've had very few periods of time in which I felt comfortable in my own body, so in a way I already know what it's like, but it's also like I can grasp what it's like to feel comfortable in my body, and it seems so much 'better', that it feels like a kind of denial to stop trying to achieve it.

Dr. Arya Sharma, scientific director of the Canadian Obesity Network:

"In assessing someone for obesity, you need to assess mental health as your number one priority before you even start thinking about what people eat and how much people move," he said. "Because right away you can assume that if there's a mental health problem going on, managing weight is going to be very difficult."

"They're saying 'it's all a matter of choice, and if I tell people what healthy eating is they'll just go out and do it,' not recognizing that (obesity) is as much a medical disorder and as much a medical condition as a lot of the mental health issues are," Sharma said.

Dr Velvet Thong Blinky, according to the data, you are on trial for the Manifesto, but possibly due to some bureaucratic fuckup, there's no organized attempt at setting a trial date or punishment.

It's all rather vague, but the Manifesto is a kind of psychic crime for which you cannot be forgiven. If you had remained silent, with The Bumble moving to Northern Ontario, and you moving to Australia, if 'normal', polite superficial family communication, at least with siblings and stepmother had resumed, it could perhaps have been forgiven, but you had to ruin everything.

It's not as bad as I thought.

According to your history, it seems you sort of wanted to be a writer early on, but then gave up on it, thinking you just weren't cut out for it. Can you refresh my memory?

Blinky: At 10, my spelling and grammar were better than The Bumble's, and Mama Smurf's, but I didn't know it. I think it's possible that he had an unconscious jealous-fear reaction which resulted in him passing on to me that spelling and grammar meant nothing, and that the actual book I wrote at age 10 was a joke, and schools were a joke, too, for rewarding spelling and grammar.

Dr Velvet Thong: Spelling and grammar, eh? What the hell happened, use it or lose it?

Blinky: Haha.

I had always been insecure about grammar because I didn't feel I had a good grasp on it - I was just using forms of sentences I had seen, and probably my memory was good enough to sort through which books and things I'd read were more likely to be employing correct grammar - you know, unlike Penthouse Forum fantasies, or something like that. I didn't find out until I was 22 that The Bumble wasn't so gifted with spelling and grammar. Mama Smurf was considerably better, but not as good as me (I found out at about 13- 15) and that shocked me, too, since she actually was able to work as a teacher - it's like that info stunned me in a way I didn't expect to be stunned about the world, but it does show a kind of serious stupidity in me. K-Pru's spelling and grammar are good, but in writing I could finally see that she was either in some kind of denial, or she didn't think deeply about things. I had assumed her thinking processes were more complex, because of the books on her shelf, but we never actually discussed them, and maybe I got something out of them she didn't. Not all readers get the same things out of books. My personality wasn't strong, and I wasn't smart in seeing people's 'lacks'. It was like I was programmed to only look at the good, and build people up for that, and my consciousness could not explore further than that, although it was good at perceiving complicated depth when it came to 'good qualities'. My basic programming told me to be humble, and to look for the good in people, and to see anything else meant I was a bad person, and it was important not to be a bad person, essential in finding love and in surviving. I had a bitch of a time cracking that code.

I need to explain more about what it means or why sometimes people can't feel that primal urge to 'stay alive and thrive to teach others a lesson or not let them win'. Most people just chalk that up to not having any 'spirit'. Maybe it's just niche picking, choosing the opposite of The Bumble? But it could mean that already the primal rage leveled against me from both parents had 'killed' me, so I didn't have the same survival instinct as other people? Or it had to go underground, I had to get craftier, more creative, to express that primal survival instinct without incurring more blows?

Do people ever wonder how much 'spirit' it takes to leave up a Manifesto that the world either looks down on or laughs at?

Or that out of 4 sprogs, I was the only one who ever really stood up to The Bumble, although I'm often considered the wimpiest?

-The concept of Fairy Tale Debt - the way countries have massive debts.. too many storytellers and moviemakers bow to the pressure to tell 'happy' stories or 'positive' stories, and use attractive heroes and they keep withdrawing/borrowing and using and abusing credit, and it will lead to some big 'crash'?

-'Saturation' - most people are becoming aware, through repetition of images and characters, dependent for the most part on physical features, that they themselves are 'destined' to be 'extras' or unpleasant characters, and this leads to some kind of anarchy or revolt or rioting, or WWIII.

-Part of what this entails is that particular actors are chosen to 'sell' somewhat ugly ideas, or to deflect attention away from the validity of other people's stances. And I could try to point out that there are definite patterns in the roles certain actors seem to get, and so in addition to who is hired because they have proven to do well at the box office, it's also about the types of roles the public will accept them in, and who they want to see them fuck. It's an extension of the director's (and/or writer's) own narcissism - the person who plays the character that resembles them is about how they want to be seen, and this person is usually more photogenic than the director or writer themselves. Voyeurs have the illusion of a director's perspective. If you want to put someone in a potentially controversial role, if that person has a history of 'likeability', even when they play a criminal, you can 'bet' on them to be good box office and to avoid uproar. People will be predisposed to take the side of someone who has 'conscientiously' chosen roles in the past. When a person is given a thankless role, one in which the director originally intended to 'sacrifice' them, possibly because at that time they were an unknown 'expendable', and that person somehow manages to beat the odds and garner public approval - that person will often go on to be a 'success'.

Blinky: If there had been video camera surveillance when I attended school, I probably never would have showed up to school at all, it's not just that I would have been afraid to use the restrooms.

Dr Velvet Thong: Safety first.

Blinky: And if social success depended upon how one photographed at all times, off one's guard, with no chance to check first or use filters, I would have felt too ashamed to do anything, even if I could have figured out how to take selfies.

Dr Velvet Thong: How is that different from the situation you find yourself in now?

Blinky: I guess it might have been a big part of what 'pushed me out' of society.

Getting Drunk With The Bumble

The Bumble has a special Bumble dance and spin that he does when he goes to refill his drink. It's really quite cute, and it's easy to imagine that the ladies really go for it. It's like tiptoeing through the tulips, but 'sexier'.

The Bumble: I didn't want to say it before, because I was trying to protect you, but the reason Natalie left was because that night we got drunk together, you peed under a chair and she had to clean it up and that was the last straw for her.

Blinky: I never really knew what happened that night, but I had an incredibly strong lingering sense of shame about it. I did realize I had probably peed, and I had wondered about who had cleaned it up, and I would have done it myself if anyone had asked me. I just couldn't figure out where I had peed..

I realize you were trying to be 'altruistic' in the kind of way you often have over the years, without really being able to see the real issues here, or somehow you have a way of diverting people's attention from some of the unpleasant facts of the situation.

The night we got drunk together, I was 15. Er, just exactly how did that happen? If I remember correctly, you said something like 'Fuck it, if you're going to get drunk, you might as well get drunk with me, where I can keep an eye on you.'

And to be honest, over the years I have wondered if you might have had some hidden motivations, knowing that when I got drunk I tended to make out with strange boys, and if in fact that was what you were trying to deflect attention away from.

The Bumble: What would you have done, in my place? I was at my wits' end with you.

Blinky: When I could not stay the whole summer with Mama Smurf, had some kind of breakdown and asked you both to take me to a psychologist, although you arranged it, you failed to realize it was your job as a parent to find another for me rather than put all the onus on me to figure out what to do when the first one wasn't right for me. I did my part, dammit. I alerted you both to the problem, quite clearly.

You let it drop, not seeming to pay attention to what happened after that, perhaps thinking it would work itself out. I only turned to alcohol, the Family Solution, after I had exhausted all other options.

I had up until then been pretty 'square'. I had been pressured pretty much on a daily basis at school and by the next door neighbour to smoke, drink and smoke pot. I resisted, and it's weird, a lot of kids still seemed to like me.

Maybe it would have seemed like regular problem teen behaviour, if you hadn't been paying any attention to me and had no idea who I was, how hard I tried to please you and everyone else and how much responsibility had been heaped upon my head from a very young age.

Dr Velvet Thong: It's hard to be a parent. Sometimes it's easier to see what went wrong in hindsight.

Blinky: Are you supposed to forgive someone if they don't ever believe they contributed anything to the mess or that they did anything wrong at all and have no guilt, and in fact blame you for putting them through so much crud? And that through the years, they have leadership qualities and spin the story thusly to every person they meet, so that any time you meet someone new, they already see you in a bad light??

And I did think I forgave. I thought I could understand the situation, his upbringing and thinking style, and that his reactions were understandable, but with the new stepfamily and the stepbrother I knew The Bumble had not changed and it took a while but I realized I could not accept him for who he was. And besides, it wasn't just the stepbrother he was calling a loser, it was me, too, and no one there was willing to call him on it. I can 'forgive', if that means I think I can understand how he processes info and see his good qualities, and wish him well in life, but it doesn't mean the harm shouldn't be addressed and that I should just quietly 'accept him for who he is' and know he's a 'good person'. So, does that mean I don't forgive?

Dr Velvet Thong: Do you want to be forgiven?

Blinky: If I have wronged anyone, or contributed to pain, I would like people to let me know and give me a chance to acknowledge and sincerely apologize for what I have done. If I see things differently, I would try to explain, and try my best not to invalidate the other's feelings and perceptions, and try to go further in to communication with the goal of both of us reaching a kind of understanding we're both at peace with. If a stalemate was reached, I would say I am really sorry you are experiencing so much pain, but I don't think I can help you, and I think it is best that we stay out of each other's way.. but, I will remain available to answer questions and help you achieve resolution if you think it is possible. I guess some people might think these things and not say them, but I think an important part might be to actually say them.

I wouldn't want anyone to have to feel guilty forever and never find happiness, and if they felt bad for making mistakes that affected me, I wouldn't want them to be tortured forever, but I think it would feel good to know they realized what they did and were sorry and that they wished for my happiness and didn't want me to be isolated and feeling so unwanted and unable to feel pleasure that I wanted to die, and that I was enduring in this state, year after year. If a parent can look away from this kind of thing, I'm just really curious as to what the rationale is? Afraid to make things worse? How much fucking worse can it get?? Did you really think your kid who wrote a book at 10 and skipped a grade and put on shows, and was good at swimming and judo and horse riding and cleaning barns and cutting grass and was a top student and liked socializing and wanted to go out on a lot of dates and wanted to go to university just stopped wanting any of these things in life? What did you Think? It all just sadly changed? That she was always 'off', the signs were always there? Did you fucking think about it at all??

Dr Velvet Thong: It's good for you to get that out, but I think you know that sometimes people just aren't trained or programmed to think about others in such ways. Sometimes unusual circumstances bring out more complex perceptions, but not always, and many people, even in or after crises, maintain a more primitive approach to life and relationships.

Blinky: I know. And most of the time, it's seemed silly to get angry or even come across momentarily in a self-righteous way. If you can't change a situation, or make people see things differently, what can you do? I tried to accept, wish everyone well, and to find others to communicate with who might understand what the hell I'm saying. I thought that was 'positive'. But I weirdly seem to keep finding new variations on the old themes/problems. And all the gurus would say I'm doing something wrong, I haven't learned my lesson yet, blahblahblah.

I can't remember if I've made it clear that The Bumble preferred to start drinking at night, that he liked to get to a certain level of inebriation fast, and try to keep it there, and that I have a similar pattern. Even with many years of experience, it can be difficult to control all variables, and sometimes blackouts still occur, but most of the time, I think both of us somehow figured out how to make sure hangover symptoms weren't too bad. When we lived in Winnipeg and he drank a 26 ounce bottle of Appleton Estates every night, he still managed to get up and go to work each day.

The Bumble had certain sayings he liked to repeat.

One was:

It's do as I say, not do as I do!

I used to think that one was funny, but maybe not as much any more. Also, when a dog was hungry, he used to mutter 'His stomach thinks his throat's been cut.'

When it came to me, when I was 21, and trying to focus really hard to leave the house at last, when I was fit and going out more, looking for jobs, he went around muttering (in a passive-aggressive, contemptuous sort of way):

Pull up the ladder, Jack, I'm alright.

And that thing about not recognizing the log in one's own eye due to focusing on the mote in someone else's. And I think that's because months earlier, when trying to comfort K-Pru about the scene where he had dissed her very vocally in front of all of us and said he didn't want to get married, I had approached her and tried to explain he was immature, and I guess I can see it, it was outrageous for me to call him immature, considering the state of my life. I did get it, and I did try harder to be more sensitive and understanding in the future.

But on Friday nights, as I was getting older, during the years I wasn't going out, it was like he understood the needs of an addict, and he'd genuinely seem compassionate/empathetic when he gave me a charitable donation of 2L of ice cream.

Dr Velvet Thong: I need a drink. Care to join me?

Rites of Passage and Sexual Trivia

We probably need to get more sex in here, fast, before people start falling asleep.

Dr Velvet Thong: First kiss.

Blinky: I was 13, on a 3-day school trip to an island camp, named after a whole lot of guys who pay women for sex.

My hair was greasy, because I could only wash my face, not hair, and I borrowed the baseball cap of this guy I had a crush on. When I went to his cabin to return it, he threw the cap off into the air, picked me up in his arms like in the movies, carried me to one of the cots, put me down, got on top of me and kissed me. I don't remember the actual sensation because I was so self-conscious about the retainer in my mouth which had food in it from my last meal, because I had been too self-conscious in the mess hall to take it out.

I thought maybe the retainer or bad breath had turned him off and so he stopped, but there might have been a hidden agenda. When he got off me I saw that a friend of his was standing at the window with a camera. He didn't speak to me again for the rest of the trip, or ever.

After that, rumours spread around the school that we'd had sex, and maybe it was a bit like a forerunner of modern experiences, just less extreme. There was no internet or smartphones to post the images to. I wasn't upset or stressed by the incident, because I was so focused on moving away from the middle of nowhere to stay with The Bumble, where Life Would Be Much Better. It was near the end of the year, and I didn't have to hold on much longer before getting a fresh start in a new place.

I don't mean to dismiss this kind of experience. This, and other types of harassment at school do add to the overall stress of the experience, and depending on what else is going on in your life, can add to a 13 Reasons Why kind of situation. From the age of 12 on, I did have boys trying to grab or slap my ass on a daily basis, or otherwise feel me up (for a couple of years, and then that died down and it became more verbal and about staring). The point is not to dismiss it and say 'all girls go through this, get a grip,' the point is to identify it and try to figure out how to change the situation. Surely there are ways to express attraction that are less intimidating? I would say that the verbal stuff came across as more Hustler than Penthouse Forum.

Dr Velvet Thong: First intercourse.

Blinky: Vaginal or anal?

Dr Velvet Thong: What are you in the mood for?

Blinky: I'll take Vaginal for the Masses.

I don't really remember, and it's not because I was drunk. I think the backstory might be relevant, though.

In Grade 11, after it became known that I had gotten drunk at a party and made out with some guys, this one guy started pestering me every day. For the purposes of this story, I'm going to call him Truck Driver, because he had a job driving and delivering for a furniture company called Old Ontario House. He regularly stole stuff from the stockroom and sold it as a sideline, and he had friends who also stole from their employers. It took me some time to figure this out, though. In the beginning, all I knew was that I didn't find him physically or intellectually attractive and in fact he kind of repulsed me. He was often drunk at school. He kept asking me out, in many different ways, with many different suggestions, and often he tried more than once a day. In the early years, I didn't find this persistence odd, because this was the type of guy I seemed to attract most often.

This was the Bad Year, the year I was going off the rails, when I eventually starting thinking there was no solution except to save up my antidepressants and as many other drugs I could get my hands on to kill myself. He said I looked like the Saddest Girl in the Whole School. Eventually, I accepted a ride with him to a party with people we both knew - strictly as friends. He took me to a secluded place in the woods, and I guess I thought that's where the party was, because such parties often did start outside, and bonfires were built, etc, and teens sat around drinking beer and smoking pot and listening to Rush, Supertramp, Styx, ACDC and Led Zeppelin.

He offered me a beer, and waited for my pattern to kick in, while we ostensibly waited for the others to show. They never did, because we weren't at the right place.

I blacked out and came to with hickeys all over my neck and not much of a memory. He told me he tried to have sex with me, but wasn't able to. He said he couldn't believe I had struggled so hard. I was very embarrassed and apologized profusely if I had led him on, and said that I didn't want to be more than friends.

Dr Velvet Thong: It sounds awful, but I think at that time, and in similar places, the concept of date rape would have been extremely odd.

Blinky: After that, he kept pursuing me. I said no, he tried another angle. I was otherwise kind of a neglected kid, whose depression was not being successfully addressed, and eventually he wore me down. When you don't know how to define rape or ill intent, and you're very isolated, and someone takes such an extreme interest, it can start to seem like the guy might actually love you.

Eventually I started giving him handjobs and blowjobs. Ah, another first, I'll throw in first oral for free. I did it in the livingroom of my house, near the fireplace/woodstove. Right after, he became extremely angry and jealous, and said mean things to me, and accused me of lying about having never done it before. It took quite some doing to calm him down.

I tried to break up with him, over and over, but he was one persistent motherfucker. And he came from such a fucked up family, that actually might be literal, as well. Seriously, I think it's possible that every conceivable form of incest occurred in that family, and so you have to ask if he was a product of his environment, and deserved compassion.

For my birthday, my Sweet 16. he threw me a party at his house, in the basement, with a lot of people we both knew in attendance. It was supposed to be a surprise, but he needed a handjob on the way there and then couldn't stick to the story about going to a restaurant and blurted it out, partly because he felt bad because he made a cum stain on my burgundy dress, the same one I wore a few months later to my mother's funeral. The stain never really came completely out.

Everyone told me how pretty I looked, so that was nice. But, true to form, I drank too much and I drank fast, and I blacked out and don't remember much of the party. He told me later that after the guests left, I passed out on the pool table and he tried to fuck me, but his father pulled him off me. Factoring in the family mentality, I am not so sure the father was against rape, but maybe he didn't want me to bleed on the pool table, who knows. Maybe he didn't think it was the 'right occasion' and he had some standards, or something, and this was just part of passing the family value system on, some of the nuances which Truck Driver might not yet have grasped.

Two days after the party, I tried to kill myself. My father was so angry that he refused to talk to me or see me for quite some time, and meanwhile, this boyfriend showed up at the hospital every day, and continued on with his relentless 'seduction' techniques. No one else took that degree of interest in me, and in the hospital, I performed sexual favours out of view of staff, in stairwells, and wherever possible. At this point, it was seeming to me like he deserved some kind of reward for his persistence, his caring and for telling me over and over he was in love with me. It's amazing, I've come to a point where I find this story really really hilarious rather than just disappointing or sad or shameful.

When I was released from the hospital he tried to force intercourse once more, when I was sober this time, and I pushed him off and he ridiculed me and otherwise verbally abused me, and then after he went back to 'wooing' me, and I just caved in and thought no one else would ever love me, no one else would ever try this hard, and he 'deserved' what he was telling me night and day he wanted above all things. The people in the hospital seemed to feel I was a manipulative little bitch who had treated her long-suffering father horribly, and I guess I wasn't sure I deserved much. My father was still mad as hell, especially since I think he was resentful he was legally required to do something completely unfair (take me in after my immature little stunt.)

Er, sorry, I tend to drivel on, not realizing if I'm boring others.

Dr Velvet Thong: I'm fine, my training and discipline help me to cope, continue on please.

Blinky: We either had a day off, or took a day off school, and went to my house. He had a car, and so it was pretty easy for us to go places. I think I should mention that one of the positives of dating him was that he did prevent me from withdrawing from the world or becoming totally socially isolated at that time. He was the only person persistent enough to get through.

We didn't have anything special for the occasion, not even condoms. I had studied the Rhythm Method in Biology, and since I'd always had a very regular period, I thought I had grasped the concepts and was qualified to choose an appropriate day. It's possibly obvious that by this time I was headed down the spiral as far as I could go. I mean, there's probably enough foreshadowing by now.

Dr Velvet Thong: You don't remember the actual act?

Blinky: Not really. I can sort of vaguely remember, or guess. I think it took 3 goes to get the deed done, because the tightness or my pain excited him and he kept ejaculating before he could finish getting it in. There wasn't any or much blood, probably because I had been riding horses for a few years.

Dr Velvet Thong: Any feeling of intimacy, tenderness, passion?

Blinky: No, I think I was semi-dissociated, but still capable of experiencing physical sensations. I don't really remember the sensations, though. I can speculate that at some time during the afternoon I had an orgasm or more than one unrelated to intercourse, but that is because that was normal for me. Most of the time they had occurred fully clothed. After intercourse initiation, it was extremely rare that I didn't have one during intercourse, no matter how fast he was. And I suppose my usual anxiety level was reduced by regular physical contact and orgasms. And this was true when it came to the others that followed as well, over a range of physical appearances, personality types and techniques.

I kept trying to articulate over and over that I wanted to break up, and again and again I would be worn down by his persistence. Consciously, I didn't want it to continue, but unconsciously, I might not have believed I deserved better. When people make cliche comments about how girls like bad boys, I always feel kind of irritated. What other choices were available to me? Does it matter at all that I eventually managed to get free of the bad ones, without feeling all nostalgic about the past? And I could have chosen a different name, like Truckhead, or worse.

Dr Velvet Thong: Maybe all of your past relationships are (eventually) in a sense examples of triumph over inequality or injustice? And that is also how to define your relationship with The Bumble, or what you are still aiming at?

Blinky: Well, I like that angle better than trying to force myself to accept that stupid is as stupid does, that I never learn, and that it probably is because I'm basically rotten and don't deserve better.

Dr Velvet Thong: What do you think/feel about him now?

Blinky: I feel disgust, but I feel a bit mean about it. I think his home environment was pretty shocking, and his behaviour was very likely learned behaviour. Seriously, I think it's possible everyone was having sex with everyone, and some of them were more dominant, and others just had to take it. I think the father in particular had had a go at everyone, including the males, and the mother might have mainly been an enabler.

Dr Velvet Thong: Can you tell me more about his family members?

Blinky: I met his older sister once. She was living in an apartment on the outskirts of the city. She was the person in the family he got along best with. She was sweet, and extremely fragile, psychologically, and he told me she was a heroin addict. She was so fragile, it seemed unbelievable to me that someone like her could survive living with parents like hers. They were just so hard, such hard people, without discernible empathy. The father I think would have fucked me if he got the chance, and the mother was always cold and extremely rude to me, beyond anything I've ever seen the like of since. Truck Driver dry-humped her once in front of me. I didn't say anything. I picked up it was 'normal' for this family. Elaboration? It was like he gave her a hug and moved his hips up and down, grinding against her side, and made a few sexual type grunts. She didn't do much, just seemed somewhat impatient with him.

Dr Velvet Thong: Do you think the seductive persistence inflicted on you had also been inflicted on this sister by someone in the family?

Blinky: That would be my guess. And much worse. I think because I looked sad and neglected, it triggered an unconscious pattern/attraction. He acted out what he had witnessed, and possibly tried not only with his first girlfriends, but with his sister as well. He was programmed to go after girls like me. He was taught to think of his feelings and behaviours as 'love'.

The Bumble didn't try to counsel me that maybe I could do better, and in fact, he made fun of this boyfriend less than any other, complained about him the least. He made up denigrating nicknames for most of them. I guess he considered Truck Driver to be an underdog, but I think he commented that he was 'street smart'. I'm not sure you can get much more street smart than The Space Cowboy or Vlad, and he always made fun of them, but whatever. Ah, correction. He didn't make fun of Gandhi, and I think I somehow earned respect by managing to 'land' him. He said 'Gandhi's a Dude.' The term had a different meaning in his day, and I think it was something like he was cool and had a style that he admired or respected. He liked his trenchcoat, I guess. But seriously, I knew what he meant.

What am I getting at? Sometimes when a family seems extremely open-minded, they don't teach their kids how to set limits for themselves when it comes to how people treat them.

After I was released from the hospital following the suicide attempt, my first social outing was to a party at his best friend's house. I was nervous, but knew it was better to get back into things. I had managed to get my Learner's Permit, I was catching up on schoolwork, I was doing everything to show I would now take responsibility for myself, grow up, do what was expected of me. Some of the people at the party knew about the attempt and asked a couple of questions, not all that intrusive, and I wasn't really doing so badly.

After the party, Truck Driver told me that his best friend had told him he could 'do better' than me, that earlier in the year I had looked hotter and dressed better. I took it under advisement.

It's always been difficult for me to find the line between over or underreacting. If you try to accept people, and listen to them, you have to allow for some prejudice or 'abrasiveness', or you'll inhibit people, and/or you'll seem to lack a sense of humour.

I forgot about the Prom. I'm not sure if he thought I looked ugly in my pink prom dress, or if he thought I looked too slutty. There was this girl there he had a thing with on the side. I was the Official Girlfriend. When I walked by her at school, she and her friend would say mean things and make faces and laugh at me. OK, I didn't hear what they said, but they were never friendly to me, even when I tried to say hi. I had been told she was a friend (and later his roommate when he moved away from home) and I had taken him at his word. I didn't know why she didn't like me. I would have been happy if our breakup would stick, and he made her The Official Girlfriend.

At the Prom, I was wearing a pink dress that was slit to the waist and held together by a big wide belt. There was a kind of gathering along the hips and arms, I forget the term, I can probably look it up. I wasn't wearing a bra. I had high heeled sandals in a pale dove grey colour, with very slim heels and delicate braidwork, and strings that crisscrossed up my calves and were tied. They were pretty, and I think that even today they could pass as pretty. They were ruined that night, though.

The friend was dressed a lot more primly than I was. I think she was wearing a dress with a lot of frills that buttoned high up the neck. When he had picked me up, he had looked at me with disappointment and disgust. He only seemed to change his mind slightly about my appearance after the prom, when a male friend of his who had been there commented to him that my body looked good in the dress I was wearing. It's weird, all these years I had been thinking I looked frumpy at my prom, and it was probably because of Truck Driver's reaction to me, and it was strong enough to cancel out other feedback or impressions, but in reality, maybe I didn't look all that bad, just really slutty, whew.

He was holding hands on the dancefloor with his friend in a way that annoyed me (he wasn't trying to hide his seduction techniques), and I left the prom in a huff. I was just tired of being trapped in a frustrating situation. I ran a mile or two in those shoes up the country road, and then they caught up to me in a car and she said something that really annoyed me, and I went to slug her and got him instead, and he ended up with a black eye. And that's my prom story. But we made up and had sex in my bed later that night. My father and sister were away somewhere, but I don't know where, I can't remember. There wasn't anyone there to take photos when he picked me up for the prom. I don't know how it is now, but in those days you could just walk up to the bar at the prom venue and buy drinks without showing any ID. I was 16, he was 18, almost but not quite 19, so neither of us were legal. I'm pretty sure I was drinking vodka and orange juice. Screwdrivers.

It has just occurred to me that I can't remember a single song that played that night. I don't think I ever really sentimentalized the relationship. It could be that the verbal abuse at the end ended up throwing the rest of the relationship into a different light. I know it's difficult to understand, and that memory can be faulty, but I was constantly in a state of conflict. I needed attention, my instincts would tell me it was not a good kind of attention and I'd try to break up, and I know some people think how can you have sex with someone who does such awful things, but in my talks with The Bumble, early on, the idea of sex as possibly being separate from love was a big thing. I think he even 'helped' by saying when you have feelings you might jump to the conclusion it's love, but when you don't have much experience, you might make a big mistake and only figure it out when it's too late.

It occurs to me that when I found the writing in the study carel, that said I was a fat, ugly slut.. it could have been this friend of his who wrote it, but I don't know for sure. Someone else had written a defence: that I was a gorgeous hunk of woman! I did register that, but it's funny the way memory works, and how certain details surface, trying to get me to identify patterns.

If I compare relationships, my father's later ones, and my parents' marriage, I think he originally had a more 'complete' love with my mother than with any of those who followed. He wasn't like Truck Driver or Vlad; my impression was that women usually came to him. He wasn't a persistent type. He didn't really want to change or evolve, and he was dominant and powerful enough after his first marriage to find women who would accept he didn't want to change. Does that mean they were better suited? I don't know. It's difficult for me to admire women who wouldn't at least try to call him on some of his crap, for instance, with me.

It's possible that Neil was extremely persistent with Mama Smurf.

I don't know the story of how they got together, except that they met through Sister Smurf and The Space Cowboy. I saw them kissing in the kitchen at Grampa Smurf's house during my parents' first trial separation, but my parents got back together and it was another couple of years before they officially separated and Neil moved in.

When I finally managed to permanently break up with Truck Driver, there was a period where he kept calling, and it took a while before I stopped trying to explain myself nicely, even as he hurled abuse and (completely false) accusations at me. I never descended to his level, though, not even close, and the thing was, he had actually cheated on me throughout the relationship - I really just didn't care enough to be mad about it, because I always hoped he would finally leave me alone if he found someone new. The longer I held out, the more vicious the abuse became, and then I just kept hanging up. Finally, he showed up at The Bumble's birthday party unannounced, and Mama Smurf's sister pretty much told me to lighten up, that I was just like my mother, and she basically took his side without knowing what I had been through with him. And so I came away thinking that even if I had problems with him, maybe he wasn't so bad, and I shouldn't try to get in the way of him being friends with my family.

But I managed to make the breakup stick, and I'm proud of that.

Dr Velvet Thong: Did his family seem shockingly unusual to you at the time?

Blinky: Not really. During our discussions, The Bumble had told me about a lot of his friends, and a lot of them were wife beaters and generally sexist, or more aggressively misogynist, and reading between the lines, I'd bet there were quite a few child abusers in there.

There was this weird pattern that seemed common out in the country. Often there would be a guy with good-looking daughters, a guy who was fairly good-looking and aging fairly well, whose wife wasn't aging as well in comparison.

Dr Velvet Thong: That seems like a very unfair generalization or prejudice.

Blinky: Yes, I realize that. But, I do think a lot of seriously fucked up shit happened in country communities/families, and it might partly have to do with social isolation. And that's partly why my experiences maybe didn't seem shocking to me, but perhaps even rather tame. Or maybe it was just the people my father knew, in particular.

He always rooted for the underdog, played Devil's Advocate, and the way it seemed to be framed was that he had a kind of pity for these poor bastards at times, but later I maybe consciously realized not enough sympathy for their victims to break off contact or disturb the friendly vibes, except in extreme cases, but sometimes (er, usually) not even then.

Dr Velvet Thong: When you chose to live with him, weren't you in a way sticking up for the underdog, because no one else seemed to be on his side?

Blinky: Yes. When I was younger, though, I genuinely thought he was great, and charming and funny. When I was 13, though, I found I was not really liking his sense of humour any more. The dirty jokes turned me off, and his general sense of humour dismayed me, but I endured them I suppose to glean some philosophical truths, secrets, or personal encouragement/praise. I use the word 'secrets', but he didn't actually say 'this is between you and me, you must not ever tell'. He might have counted on me to keep some things to myself, but it seems likely to me that he trotted out whichever sensational tidbits he thought or intuited might intrigue someone, when trying to pick up women, all the time, and he also intuited which things might be better left to himself.

I think there were probably other stories, for brothers and men friends, that I never got to hear.

People who knew me from age 13-15 would probably be shocked to hear how I describe my recollections of my father now, because back then I was always saying how great he was and how bad my mother was. In some ways, though, it might have been like I was in a cult, and had been brainwashed by a powerful leader.

Dr Velvet Thong: Your father was open-minded, and maybe it was a sign of intellectual curiosity, which can be a positive trait, and which you have inherited your own version of. Your task is to figure out the right limits or balance for you, and to try to make conscious choices.

Dr Velvet Thong: Back to Truck Driver for a moment. Have you seen a connection between his extreme pursuit of you and what you have identified in yourself as a desire to be extremely wanted?

Blinky: Yes, that just clicked last night. I think it makes sense to respond to something extreme, but that it is valid to not want that kind of thing without any qualifications whatsoever.

Who wouldn't respond to being extremely wanted, especially if or only unconsciously, they feel neglected, undervalued or even unloved?

It's different if you can pick and choose.

I guess it sucks if a guy not capable of conscious thought just instinctively goes after what he wants and refuses to take no for an answer and he's the one who gets the girl, while a guy who appreciates her qualities and daydreams about her and also intensely wants her is ruled by boundaries and self-consciousness and respect for others can only muster up the courage to ask her out once, and if she says no, even if he doesn't know the extenuating circumstances, doesn't get the girl, and that's the end of it. And I suppose then there's some philosophical points that could be made about what it 'really' means to want someone or something.

But I think it's valid to prefer to be wanted in certain ways over others, and that if you can't attain your preference it doesn't prove your preference is something else. What a person wants in fantasy does say something about who they are, and I don't fantasize about the sorts of degrading 'love' and wanting I experienced with that guy. Not everyone is attractive enough to pick and choose, and sometimes any experience is better than no experience, to experience something unknown is better than to remain closed off from life entirely.

When you figure out that Truck Driver doesn't really love or want you, that you have merely triggered an unconscious pattern which is about denying and subduing your individuality as an unconscious power game, and depleting and exploiting your resources the way some feel entitled to the Earth's without a thought of the consequences, it's not so appealing, or flattering. If you can identify that you want something different, no one has the right to label you a masochist. You shouldn't have to kill off your family or become Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct to prove otherwise.

It's one thing to respond to a man who shows interest because you're lonely - when for him it's like shooting fish in a barrel, another to mistake novelty and no other offers for a fetish.

I was extremely open-minded, forgiving, and unaware I had really low self-esteem.

Dr Velvet Thong: How long did that first ongoing relationship last?

Blinky: From start to finish, about 10 months, but we were broken up frequently during that time and in the later months, it was a lot more off than on.

Dr Velvet Thong: At what point did you find out you were pregnant?

Blinky: I'm not sure and will have to think about it, but approximately 5 months in. I found out a day or so before I got the news Mama Smurf was in a coma and would be a vegetable if she lived.

Dr Velvet Thong: And The Bumble was the one who told you about your mother?

Blinky: He came into my bedroom, he had a serious tone. I was in my nightie. He wanted me to sit up, and I sat on the edge of my bed and he sat beside me and told me about my mother and I started to cry and become emotional and he put his arm around me and there was just something about it that creeped me out so seriously that I went into a kind of shock and just shut down and pushed him away and could only continue the conversation at a distance, and I wasn't comfortable at all, I was just conscious of wanting to get away from him and cover up. I know it might sound strange, but it was like I had this strange feeling that whatever boundaries had been in place before, it was like this was some kind of free pass or get out of jail free card to cop a feel, or something.

I had to hurry and get dressed anyway, as we had to drive up to what he called The Armpit of Ontario to see her in the hospital before she died. And when we got there, I was the only one of her children considered old enough to see her in ICU, and they said something like I should say whatever I wanted to say to her, and I didn't know what to say, but my inhibition was worse because her boyfriend was alone in the room with me, and I had never really liked him or felt comfortable with him and so that was it, that was the last time I saw her. She died a couple of days later.

Dr Velvet Thong: And you became the unfeeling daughter who did not cry at her mother's funeral, and were likely the subject of gossip?

Blinky: Yes. Wearing a red dress! to boot, the burgundy one with the cum stain from my Sweet 16 Surprise Party, because I had worn the appropriate navy one with a strand of pearls to the viewing at the funeral home because I thought the funeral was that day and I had no one to consult about what the fuck the protocol was. It was just 'get ready, we're going now'. I suppose it could be argued that the appropriate dress could have been worn for two days of viewing and then also a third day at the funeral, but, er, in Toronto in July? It's not just a 'female thing' that clothes matter to some extent. There was no one to say, 'save that dress for two days from now.' Also, it was a 'rich' funeral, with massive crowds of people, many of them wealthy.

Dr Velvet Thong: What about your siblings?

Blinky: I realize that I probably wasn't much of a role model or support to them. I had no idea what I was doing, and in those days, the communication structure in the family was such that no one really knew how to be psychologically supportive. But because I was so 'cold', it's possible the others were easier to sympathize with. Plus, everyone kept going on about how much Beany resembled Mama Smurf, in a complimentary kind of way. My cousin Justine told me she liked my dress, so there was at least that.

Dr Velvet Thong: You were conscious of your pregnancy during your mother's funeral, and you had already made a decision to have an abortion. Did Truck Driver attend the funeral? Was he a source of support?

Blinky: He wasn't with me at the funeral home viewings or the funeral itself. I can't remember if he had to work, or if I asked him not to come. I had an abortion not long after the funeral. I didn't have to think or agonize about it, and I've never regretted the decision.

The conversation with The Bumble went something like:

The Bumble: Stupid, stupid, stupid! What are you going to do?

Blinky: Get an abortion.

The Bumble: Good.

He seemed relieved. I was relieved I wouldn't have to tell my mother I was pregnant, and felt guilty, because I didn't want her to have to die for that.

Dr Velvet Thong: A lot was happening in a short period of time, when you were already on extremely shaky ground.

Blinky: Whenever I tried to relay any of this to counsellors or psychiatrists, there either wasn't time to get into much, or they didn't seem to think I was saying much, and I was even told 'I've heard worse.' And all of this is on top of living with the daily reality of ichthyosis, and a serious, incapacitating addiction/eating disorder. Through the outwardly more extreme events of my life, I was still dealing with all of the daily implications of those conditions. And to top that off, the summer I was 16, I hadn't had time to get a suntan (or the 'right amount', and certain no time to maintain), because of all the ongoing drama with the boyfriend, my mother's death, my pregnancy and abortion, and the fact that I was working 12 hours a day as The Bumble's secretary/receptionist for the summer, and supervising and marking aptitude tests. I took a day off for the funeral (the viewings were at night), and a day off for the abortion and otherwise, I was there every day.

Dr Velvet Thong: Did you find the abortion traumatic?

Blinky: I'm not sure I would describe it that way. I was very conscious that I had brought my situation on myself and that I had no excuse to wallow in self-pity. I tried to concentrate on doing what had to be done, and holding myself 'together'.

Some hoops had to be jumped through. For some people, it can be harder than others. I think you had to get a couple of doctors to sign off saying that it was in the interest of the patient's health and wellbeing to get an abortion. I went to a clinic in a small country town. OK, wait for that to sink in now. They didn't perform abortions themselves, but I didn't live in the city and didn't go there on my own, and stupidly, I went to a smalltown country clinic to get my referral. I really was naive about abortions, thinking you just had to say you wanted one.

Luckily there was the suicide attempt a couple of months previously to consider, and that might have factored in to the doctor's decision. Also, he met the boyfriend.

Ha, also, I just remembered this really funny little extra bit of trivia. During my pelvic exam, a really young doctor, I guess an intern, good-looking, with curly blond hair joked with me, a pregnant 16 year old girl, as he put on his white gloves, that in gynecology class he had been nicknamed Fingers, and he winked at me, before giving me a demonstration of his technique.

Dr Velvet Thong: I've heard worse. But the important thing is not to get overwhelmed by past judgments made by those you knew and those you encountered in positions of authority. It's obvious to me that a lot of those judgments did affect your self-esteem and even how you tell the story now, and believe me, I do realize that most people cannot begin to see enough of the overview not to judge.

Blinky: I had to see another doctor at a private clinic in Toronto to get the second referral, I think.

The day of the abortion was pretty stressful. Truck Driver had to work, and he just dropped me near the hospital and the plan was he was going to pick me up after the abortion. Work was more important to him than school. In the past couple of years he hadn't managed to acquire many credits. At that time, I was unfamiliar with the city and it was kind of overwhelming, and because I entered not at a main door, I got lost and then suffered the humiliation of having to ask directions, during which I was asked what I was there for and I was still too stupid not to give people too much information. It's a hospital, they perform abortions, I shouldn't be afraid to admit I'm having an abortion in a big city hospital, but on the day, it's maybe nice not to have to deal with unpleasant reactions.

Dr Velvet Thong: You found your way to the right place.

Blinky: I guess it was the hospital's policy, but I had full anaesthesia, and was in a room with many others who were getting the procedure done as well. A few of them had had more than one before, and knew the drill.

I woke up nauseous and had to vomit, but was soon up and about.

My boyfriend was more than 3 1/2 hours late picking me up, and they wouldn't let me leave. At a certain point I called The Bumble to find out if Truck Driver had called him to leave a message for me, (no, he hadn't), and then The Bumble started roaring and saying he'd come pick me up but I couldn't stand the idea of being around him after what I'd been through and I said no, I'd wait, and the stress of the argument over it was just not something I needed on top of it all.

And so when Truck Driver finally arrived, I wasn't mad, just relieved to finally be leaving, and I was probably a very forgiving person. I even offered to give him a blowjob, in the back of the furniture truck (from his work), because it had been a while since he'd had one, and I knew he'd probably be needing one (and it was going to be ages in teenage boy terms, until he could fuck me again. Actually, it seemed like a really long time to me, too, and I reasoned there was no reason both of us should have to suffer for it), and really, I was recovered now, and not nauseous at all. He refused at first and seemed to feel bad or guilty about something, I don't know what, but he couldn't really fight it when I pressed the issue. (I mean, tried again to offer a blowjob.)

What I remember after that was that he wanted to take me out to a Chinese restaurant to compensate for what I had been through or to try to make up for being late, and we didn't know the city well and couldn't find an open one nearby. And besides.. it seems rather dubious to 'reward' me with a treat when I had been so stupid as to get pregnant.

I was used to a certain type of Chinese food, and I liked battered chicken balls, and was looking forward to having them, but when we finally found a Chinese restaurant, it was like a gourmet one that didn't have the usual things, and I reluctantly tried some boneless lemon chicken pieces instead, and it was so tender and delicious that I've always remembered it. The day of my abortion, I probably had the most delicious lemon chicken I've ever had.

I became a vegetarian a few months later.

When I left the hospital, it was with a prescription for the pill. Luckily, because of my summer job, I was able to afford to get it filled.

Dr Velvet Thong: What do you think he'd be like now?

Blinky: Like he was then, but older, fatter, drunker, and with kids and a wife he passes on the family traditions to, and as many extracurricular activities as he can get away with. The way to prevent anyone from questioning you too closely is to make sure you choose someone who doesn't have a lot of power, who doesn't speak much, and remember that a good offense is better than a good defense. Attack and confuse, so the other person never gets a chance. Beat them into submission so they give up the idea of even trying. Be fucking relentless.

Dr Velvet Thong: Has he ever tried to contact you again, or vice versa?

Blinky: I have never tried to contact him again. For the first couple of years, he tried after my family moved. I had had a thing with the guy who lived across the street at the first place, and when he noticed Whatshisface skulking around, he was really good at making sure he got no intel. He didn't even mind doing it; it just came natural to him to try to thwart a fellow predator. Yeah, you guessed it, it was Vlad.

Then he went after my best friend from high school, who I was still in touch with through written correspondence and phone contact once in a while, and he was absolutely fucking merciless, I know his tactics, and I have never been even slightly upset with her for giving the details to just shut him up and make him go away.

She called me quick, to warn me he had worn her down, and she seemed to feel so guilty, but I never blamed her. My life was in the toilet by that time and in our last conversations it had seemed we'd had less and less to talk about, and it seemed like the best solution was that the next time I moved, it was best that not even she knew where. It wasn't just so he couldn't contact me, it was because it was getting harder to cope with the judgment I perceived. She was moving on with her life, and it was better that I not try to drag her down with me. I know she might have been curious sometimes, but eventually I had just had too many unpleasant experiences with former friends, relatives and acquaintances, and with new people, and I just didn't want to have to explain the unexplainable and undefendable. It was just too devastating.

If he tried to contact me now, I don't think it would occur to him to apologize for anything. I think he'd just be wondering if I felt nostalgic about any of the 'good times', and although he might think he's curious about what I'm doing now, what my career and family life are, I just think it would be a pretext to cover up his agenda: he'd be wondering if I am still remotely fuckable, and if there's a chance to hit that again. And while I'm sure he still prefers 'em young, he can probably bring himself to fuck just about anything.

Dr Velvet Thong: What did he think of your skin?

Blinky: He had his eyes closed most of the time, and I think he was just too horny to notice. All he wanted was the holes, and I learned how to preoccupy him easily enough. A lot of the time I was fully or mostly clothed, and/or we were in dark or poorly lit rooms.

Tell me Dr, does it make sense that I would bring all this upon myself just because I was sad when I figured out my father didn't really want me to live with him, he just wanted to gravely injure my mother? I mean when I unconsciously started to connect the dots?

Dr Velvet Thong: It does make some sense, now that you put it like that, but our job here is not to get too settled into one way of looking at the situation to the exclusion of others. We can factor it in as one layer or facet, whose relevance might shift, increase, warp, diminish, depending on current variables, perspective and any new stimuli or info coming in.

I think you tried to stay open and flexible, while trying to distill the most true truth, and there probably is no such thing. When you were dancing, I think you instinctually knew that, accepted it, and felt you were able to go with it, and that's why your most positive memories are associated with dancing. Most people might think of dancing as a purely physical thing, but you were fully engaged, physically, mentally, psychologically, spiritually.

Blinky: Even though I feel like I keep getting further, it's like that is always an illusion, or there's always still so far to go. It's like I can feel the pressure of the cheering crowd, happy to get their primal payday, saying 'yes, she's finally gonna get that motherfucker and good', and I know I maybe have to give them a moment, but not stay there, not rest there as if that's the final say.

It's so weird. For so many years, I felt so guilty even trying to understand my feelings or examine my memories, and it would all feel so heavy and awful, and I would be scared of how bad it was and how long I'd be unable to shake that off, and now when I write the details it all seems so funny, in a way, that I actually laugh out loud as I describe it.

Dr Velvet Thong: There are those who might point out you seem to lack emotion, and who might wonder if you've always been that way, a sociopath yourself. However, you've been trying to tell your story for years and no one has seemed to understand what you've been trying to say, and I think it makes sense that because your family and society and 'professionals' dismissed what you had been through, you lost the ability to believe in your feelings as something valid, and now the only way to tell it is to try another approach. You did not casually reach the conclusion that death was the only solution for you at age 16. You just don't know how to articulate or remember in ways that others can finally recognize.

Blinky: I think originally when it came to marriage and kids, I was largely unconscious and probably had the default setting. By the time I was a teenager, and there was no cure for my skin, I began to think there wasn't any way I could ever be married unless I managed to figure out how to get a job somewhere in the world with a suitable climate.

Blinky: Truck Driver was unconscious, and his approach to sex wasn't very sensual. He was so persistent and put in so much effort, I began to think if I wasn't able to move away, he was probably the only one who'd ever want to marry me.

Dr Velvet Thong: Did you have fantasies about a wedding?

Blinky: I'm not sure. I think it was more likely that I tried to imagine what type of white dress I'd look best in, and that I thought about tropical honeymoon destinations. But, a big part of making choices for a wedding involves that it's all going to be photographed, and if the 'centrepiece', the Bride, isn't photogenic, it sort of ruins the fantasy. I remember reading a book (novel - but I can't remember what it was) that 'inspired' me to imagine married life in a cottage by the sea, with a lot of flowers around the house, and I thought I'd have a husband, two kids, one of each sex, and a dog and a cat, and that I would know how to cook many, many things, and dinner every night would be amazing, and there would also be dessert, but no one would be fat because we would have very active lives.

Dr Velvet Thong: Sounds kind of average..

Blinky: And there was also the thing I did with the Sears catalogue. It was a game I played, by myself, and maybe it helped me to develop my addition skills.

When the catalogue arrived, I would get a pad and pencil, and note down and add up the cost of everything I would buy:

1. If I was married and had a couple of kids and there was no budget whatsoever, I could just get exactly what I wanted.

2. The same scenario, but I had to create a realistic budget - and so part of the game would entail that I'd have to figure out how much I made and my husband made and factor that in, and try to stick to necessities and a few fun things.

I was aware that there were more fashionable places to shop in the world than Sears, so part of the game had to be: imagine you have no other choice. What do you buy? (This sort of fits with the bomb shelter mentality thing, where you try to plan for as many contingencies as possible. But the Sears catalogue was designed for those who lived in remote locations and had to shop this way, and so they sold not just clothing, but everything needed for a home.)

But usually I liked the game better if I only had to make selections for myself.

Dr Velvet Thong: When did it start?

Blinky: Probably Grade 2 or 3, and I probably did it until Grade 7. I still saw Sears catalogues in Grade 8 and in high school, and some of my clothes at the end of Grade 8 were ordered from the catalogue, and a couple of things in high school, but I no longer did the adding up thing/fantasy family game.

Dr Velvet Thong: First masturbation?

Blinky: I seem to have memories of doing it when very young, maybe from age 3 or so. I remember doing something like a 'striptease' with a washcloth when I bathed alone, still fairly young, so it seems possible I 'performed' for some adult in my life who found it amusing, or, er.. something else. It has recently occurred to me that originally I 'liked' being watched, and then maybe something changed and I learned there was something displeasing about me, but I'm not sure that makes sense.

But also in bed, under the covers, I would touch myself. It took some years before I had orgasms, but I remember that when it was dark, I liked when my mother left the room and sometimes I wanted to get busy touching myself.

Token Lesbian Sex Scene

Blinky: Have you noticed the trend in movies these days, not just American, but all over the world, where when a man leaves his wife of however many years when she's in middleage, they don't seem to present new male romantic options, but seem to go straight for the lesbian option? Even blind lesbian?

Dr Velvet Thong: Women are more adaptable than men, but maybe what you've noticed is an imbalance, related to monetary strategy and the underlying inequality between the sexes that movies are reinforcing rather than addressing? That although on the surface, it seems to be about presenting women with options, it's mainly about catering to men?

If a film is about relationships, it's easier to drag a guy to see it if there's a chance he'll see two women getting it on, or get to see a lot of nudity. And usually, whether in movies or on tv, the lesbians and lesbian communities all seem to be composed of really hot chicks (not average ones).

But yes, I've noticed it, too. The underlying message seems to be that if a longstanding relationship ends in middleage, it's not realistic that a woman will find a new leading man. If she does, it always seems to go badly, or is just a short-term fling. A younger guy will pursue her energetically, but then ditch her when he finds a younger one, and it's accepted that because he's young, he's probably going to handle it badly. And if she tries online dating, maybe it's not exactly Looking For Mr Goodbar, but it's like a milder version of it.

Blinky: I just feel like when people read my history, they tend to go right to the scene with the female babysitter and so if we talk about that again, it's like there's this pressure to take it to another level or reveal something new.

It wasn't something that ever came up with any therapist or psychiatrist. There simply wasn't time, and there were so many other things to talk about. Compared to everything else, it seemed rather a benign experience, but most people these days, when any incident from childhood has anything to do with sex, that's it, we can stop looking now, we have found the reason for all your problems in adulthood.

Dr Velvet Thong: That's rather insensitive of you to say. Try to think about those out there who are trying their best to cope with the aftermath of various kinds of trauma.

Blinky: You're right. I'm sorry.

But if we talk about these things, I think it has to be OK to not lump all of these kinds of experiences into one category, assume everyone's dealing with the same level of trauma, and refuse to ask questions because it's not polite.

I don't have nightmares about big black bushes coming toward my face.

With the amount of force the babysitter used, my guess would be that she was turned on, and frustrated, and that somehow her experience in life was that you could behave like this with kids. But I struggled hard, and she stopped.

My parents found her, probably because a lot of those in their circle were couples in which husbands physically and verbally abused wives and possibly children. The Bumble would tell me that some of the men did some truly awful things. It just seemed normal. He kept socializing with these guys, although after the split, some remained friends with him, and some with Mama Smurf. We had a lot of different babysitters over the years.

I don't remember anything unusual with any of the other babysitters.

Dr Velvet Thong: I know you don't want to go through the details again, but there's a pattern I see, and I want to see if you see it. How do you think this experience affected you?

Blinky: In the short-term, the way I processed the experience was that I acted out. On sleepovers with girls my age, I initiated sex games. I was the aggressor, but I didn't use force. From age 5-10, I can remember 5 specific incidents, with 4 different girls, although the last one at age 10 technically wasn't with just the one girl. There was a group of girls, and we played something like a game of strip poker in the girl's bathroom, which was a large bathroom. I don't think it was poker, it was some other kids' card game. It was summer, my family were staying in a cottage, and after that, I never saw the girls again.

But that last time, I somehow got the vibe that I 'shouldn't' be doing this, and I think around then I started thinking that when I was in university, maybe then it would be the 'right' time,

Dr Velvet Thong: I think people want to know if you were a Bad Babysitter.

Blinky: I think I was actually a pretty good babysitter (for the time period - standards are probably higher now). This was an ongoing source of income for me through my teens until I was housebound. I was good at finding ways to 'reason' with kids, who don't think 'reasonably', getting them to go to bed at the right time, to only have a certain amount of snacks, all of that kind of thing. With some of the boys, I would have to say 'OK, let's have a race in the yard, and if you beat me, you can stay up an extra hour' - and they seemed to respond particularly well to 'losing' in this kind of way. I told ghost/Poltergeist stories, and from what I remember, I was good at improv back then, or kids didn't have very high standards.

There was one embarrassing incident, with two kids whose parents offered more than double the usual fee and warned me that other babysitters had run away in horror. They didn't give me specifics.

The first night, I had trouble getting the girl to stop opening and drinking cans of soda (there was an open pantry with lots of supplies) but I eventually did, without yelling, and when she climbed up and peed standing on the dining table, I didn't yell, I cleaned it up, and I managed to get both her and her sibling to go to bed at the designated hour. So, I guess I passed the babysitter test, and the parents called me again.

On the second occasion, just after her parents left, similar behaviours were occurring and I don't know what set me off, I just started going 'ARGh!', throwing my hands up in the air, that kind of thing, and the parents walked in. And I was the one who was embarrassed, and wondered if after that they had a bad babysitter story to tell about me, but I'm thinking probably not, because I babysat a lot of kids in my time, and I've never seen one that behaved like that before, or after.

I guess I need to reiterate that when it came to how the initial experience affected me, to my conscious mind it didn't seem 'negative',

From age 10 on, I started to develop crushes on boys, and by age 13 these became 'extreme' enough that I probably couldn't think of much else. A few times in my teens, I dropped hints to other girls, but these fell pretty flat.

I didn't ever try anything with my sister. Maybe there was too much animosity/sibling rivalry between us, but also I think the attraction just didn't work that way for me.

Somehow it was only related to girls my own age, (maybe it was about stage of development, a kind of equality or compatibility) and as I got older, it seemed that this was still how it worked - I wasn't a Humbert Humbert frozen in prepubescence, attracted to the young ones.

Dr Velvet Thong: There's a vibe in the family, it's like everyone thinks there's something weird about you and kids, or like you don't like them, but it sounds like at least in your teens, you interacted with kids 'normally'.

Blinky: I didn't have any experience with looking after babies, though. All the kids I babysat tended to be out of diapers. I think I only accepted such jobs, where the kids were a bit older, and I think what makes sense is that because my mother and I lived so far apart from age 13 on, and because I didn't have contact with any females who were 'nurturing' types, I didn't get the kind of experience with babies that other girls did. I guess when my siblings were born, I never helped out (we were never raised to be close), and then later, I didn't learn the things other girls learned.

Dr Velvet Thong: There's maybe some speculation that you feel guilt over your abortion at 16, and that has something to do with why as an adult you didn't want to have kids of your own, or were awkward with anyone else's kids.

Blinky: Whatever it was that made me sure I wanted an abortion, it was only partly related to the right to choose and my future education. It also related to low self-esteem. By then, I had absorbed that if The Bumble could do it all over again, if he had been capable of making conscious choices, he wouldn't have had kids, and he would have aborted me (the first). The stresses in his life related to having the massive responsibility of supporting 4 kids. He wished he could have traded us in for horses. That's not the kind of thing nice people ever admit, but it doesn't mean it isn't more true than the official story.

In a way, I was aborting myself retroactively.

It wasn't black and white. There was a split, more than one important influence. I think the unconscious territory was that I hated my boyfriend, and didn't know how to get him out of my life, and I was afraid that my influence wouldn't be enough to prevent a kid from growing up to be something awful, like a serial killer, that because I couldn't get away from a boyfriend I hated, I might not be strong enough to counter his influence in a kid. I need to stress though that this wasn't totally available to my consciousness. I didn't think I hated my boyfriend.

I didn't think I could love the child. I don't think I loved myself. My parents both said they loved me, but in the unconscious sense, I'm not sure I felt loved.

I think from there the issue became more complex. At 16, I had my first extended period of not leaving the house, and underneath that, there was a lot of shame about who I was and how I was turning out. I think I became self-conscious about infecting new generations, but also feeling like I wouldn't get a fair shot with anyone, that everyone else in the family would pass on The Bumble's brainwashing about me. I didn't feel like anyone was on my side. I didn't know how to say it.

I had very little contact with kids, or anyone, in the next years. During the going out phases, or days (sometimes only a day here or there), I tended to go out and manage to get laid or into a new relationship.

Gandhi had a sister who wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. When she had her first baby, and was passing the sprog around for everyone to hold, I wasn't assertive enough to say that the tradition didn't make sense to me, and I wasn't really into it. I did have conscious thoughts about how horrible it must be for sprogs when adults smell bad or have bad vibes, and they can't do squat to escape.

Dr Velvet Thong: They can cry.

Blinky: Yes, and this one did when passed to me. I don't blame the sprog. The mother only passed her to me because she thought you were 'supposed' to out of politeness, and she was obviously uncomfortable with the whole thing and couldn't speak up, and her baby could probably feel these vibes. The grandmother was also uncomfortable with me.

I didn't want to hold a baby. I didn't want to be in that room. I didn't want to be in Timmins, Ontario. I didn't want to be in the relationship I was in. And that wasn't about the baby, it was about my unresolved baggage, not with babies, but in life overall.

Years later, at a cottage with my brothers, their SOs, and a couple from their social circle (and Gandhi), everyone kind of muttered under their breath when I said we had a McDonald's toy in the car we could give the couple's sprog, everyone kind of reacted like 'you can't give those things to sprogs, they're choking hazards', and it was like they were all thinking 'she obviously knows nothing about kids and couldn't be trusted with one', and meanwhile no one said a word when Madison complained about how 'fat' her daughter was for a one year old, or remarked upon the fact that Madison seemed visibly disappointed in or embarrassed by her daughter's fatness. Except me. I said she looked athletic, and this seemed to result in a look of rage on Madison's face, similar to what I had seen on Mama Smurf's when informed I had gained 15 pounds. A fleeting look, one that escaped before she could control it.

Dr Velvet Thong: What about Cecil and Beany's children? How do you think the family see your lack of involvement?

Blinky: It probably looks pretty bad. I'm not sure how to make it clear, but roughly, I think it relates mostly to the main issue of me being so alienated from life that I wanted to die, and there was something especially difficult when it came to kids. To participate in usual social rituals, I would have had to hide the state of my mind and life, not just from the original family members, but a new generation, and accept that I would pass all the same beliefs and messed up communication on to them.

Beany Jr had inquired about me when she was about 5. Beany explained to her I was too 'busy' to visit them. I asked Beany if it was possible to explain to Beany Jr about my depression and she said no, and so I accepted her decision. It seemed to me the greatest good would be for me to stay out of their lives.

It was even harder to talk to Cecil than it was to talk to Beany.

But the one glaring thing: do I wonder about my nieces and nephew, am I interested in their lives?

And it's kind of like with the rest of the family.. I wish them well, I wish good things for them, but I don't have enough personal stability to uphold the social customs. I can't be the cool aunt who invites people to come visit in Australia. I've never lived in any house or dwelling in which I was comfortable, or would have been comfortable having people visit. Not just family. And contact with family has sort of given me the message that if I am 'myself', I probably don't have anything 'positive' to impart.

Dr Velvet Thong: So your role is probably to be a family eccentric or villain, who adds a bit of colour to the family tree. You went crazy in your teens, and disappeared off to Australia, never to be heard from again.

Blinky: Except.. now there's the internet. And so I do sometimes worry if my online presence could possibly be harmful, not just to the younger generations, but to the family of origin.

I kept thinking through the years that I would die at any time, and that after, it probably wouldn't be long before the Manifesto disappeared forever. I hope that my efforts to speak up about my life haven't harmed anyone, but harm is a complex concept. I needed to communicate, my family wouldn't communicate with me, and I had to go somewhere to communicate, or die.

Dr Velvet Thong: Thoughts on feminism.

Blinky: There's just so much anger in men now. I'm not really sure how to address it. I get that to them it seems like women complain when they don't talk about their feelings, then when they do, that makes women complain more, as if nothing men can do is ever right.

How do you get across that sometimes men's anger leads to women feeling they don't have a right to their feelings, such as in my case, when I was always trying to understand everyone, and didn't really ever feel entitled to be angry with anyone, to the extent that I couldn't even identify when I was being ill-treated, abused, or even when someone tried to rape me. [How do you get across that sometimes men's feelings relate to prejudices and misperceptions they don't know they hold, because they've had enough power that no one was ever tough or strong enough to get in there and question their outdated ways of looking at things? And that when they let their anger loose, it can cause a lot of destruction? And how do you point out that while women's accusations feel uncomfortable to men, they're sometimes coming from a place where there's a broader overview, it's about trying to achieve a kind of cohesion and healing?]

Using The Bumble as an example (although he's not a typical example, because in some ways he was always able to talk about his feelings when drunk).. to allow him his feelings and to be an 'understanding' person was to push down all my own feelings and accept his worldview. I couldn't form a cohesive identity. I found eventually it was a very unequal situation, in which I listened to his problems and tried to be understanding, but he couldn't return the same to me, and it was like in the end, he didn't even remember how many hours and years I had listened to his problems sympathetically, and none of it counted for anything.

When men are angry, how do you deal with it? Say 'I'm not a feminist, you can relax with me'? When The Bumble and Mama Smurf broke up, and he tried to influence how we saw our mother, it was like he was saying she was awful, and irrational, and his new gf was nice, and I went along with all of it, but when I think of the gf now, I really don't know for sure who she was as a person, because she never complained or spoke up about anything. I know now that not only did she not take an interest in me, she really just did not want me there. At a crucial age during my development, I was taught, or I absorbed, that it is attractive to completely support men even when they're wrong, and to change your entire lifestyle and preferences to accommodate a man's.

Compared to Mama Smurf, the women he dated or lived with after tended to be 'appearance-challenged' (although two of them had a slimness comparable to Mama Smurf's). Does that prove he wasn't superficial? He made a lot of derogatory comments about Mama Smurf's appearance. One thing he said was that she was 'skinny', but aside from a brief period in the 70s when she was thinner, she seemed to maintain at the lower end of the range that is (currently) considered healthy for her height, not underweight. And if she struggled to keep it there, if she had an eating disorder or appearance issues, it seems pretty mean of him to constantly attack her appearance. This might have contributed to the confusion I had to sort through. It's ok to jump on some women for their appearance, and it doesn't matter if there are some hypocritical factors involved, like, he actually had more chemistry with the one he criticized most.

Dr Velvet Thong: Thoughts on samesex sex:

Blinky: I think in university I would have been considered a bi-tourist. Still, I think it's worth pointing out that it's possible for people to have a wider variety of sexual experiences when their libido is higher. That doesn't render all those experiences invalid, and it seems pretty square to cynically say a person was always completely straight and playing with the emotions of others, that there's no rainbow of emotions and experience. The thing is, I didn't know for sure. The experiences I'd had when younger, rather than 'scarring' me, just sort of made me think it was natural and enjoyable to have sex with females.

Dr Velvet Thong: I want to draw your attention to your wording above. When describing the incident with the babysitter, you said 'I struggled hard, and she stopped.'

When Truck Driver tried to date rape you, you used similar words. After the experience, he told you that he couldn't believe you had struggled so hard. He tried his hardest, and wasn't able to rape you.

Dr Velvet Thong: What about the girls?

Blinky: I hope I haven't scarred them. At least 2 of them probably had significant other trauma in their lives as it was. I would make myself available to discuss it and apologize, or try to do whatever they thought they needed for resolution.

My Aunt Gave Me Genital Warts, and My Mother Tried To Give Me Herpes

One of the unfortunate aspects of stds and stigma is that combined, they activate the ugly human drive to place blame.

Dr Velvet Thong: A sensational heading to make people think about their need to place blame?

Blinky: Attitudes to common stds are based on ignorance and hypocrisy.

Sister Smurf introduced me to this tall blond ex-hockey player I think she'd slept with before. We watched him play floor hockey together. He didn't really like condoms and he had a lot of partners. Maybe that's something she and I have in common: the same strain of warts.

Dr Velvet Thong: Technically, you could have acquired them before that, with any of your partners, including the ones you used condoms with, and it could have been years before any symptoms showed up.

Blinky: Yes, I know, and I knew it at the time, too, but it's sort of funny to think about.

Dr Velvet Thong: You asked him to wear condoms?

Blinky: Yes, we had sex once when I was visiting my aunt in the summer, it was the summer The Space Cowboy had just been released from prison, and then again drunk at chrismukkah. I was worried about my skin the second time, but I got so drunk I blacked out and didn't even remember having sex, although I had brought condoms with me and he knew my thoughts about them.

When we did it in the summer, I had gotten out of the bed, walked naked to the closet where they were stored in my overnight bag, and brought some over to the bed. Even with the condom on, it was over so quick I barely remember it, and I was completely sober.

Vlad was a really good influence when it came to safe sex. Before him, I didn't really know what the hell I was doing, but after, I always bought condoms and insisted on using them, even if it meant I had to put them on myself. Vlad's parents were more realistic than most, and bought him a huge supply, so he'd never run out. I met Vlad when I was 17, and the hockey player at 21.

When I came to the next morning, the condoms were sitting in plain view and none had been used and I asked him about it and he said he didn't use any. And I didn't get mad, because I had blacked out, it was my fault that I didn't insist.

He seemed hurt I couldn't remember our 'night of passion'. He said: 'I made love to you all night long!'

I couldn't remember anything except some preliminary making out after the girl who was there before me left for the evening.

There was a kind of understanding, maybe it was psychic, I don't know, but I never asked my aunt about things, and he and I never fought about anything. It was just that I had a kind of hippie free love mentality. We don't own anyone, we're young, we should try things, don't get hung up on silly things, try to have the experiences you want, be honest with yourself.

He was like a son to my aunt and uncle. They were devastated when he killed himself at age 33. The Space Cowboy found him. He'd done it with a shotgun. That must have been horrible.

One night we'd all gone on a double date, that summer I was 21. The Space Cowboy poured champagne for me and Sister Smurf and we drank it from elegant glasses in the back of the car. We went to see Full Metal Jacket. I suppose that might have been foreshadowing.

Dr Velvet Thong: When did the warts appear?

Blinky: Several weeks later, and I hadn't had any other sex partners since the summer, er, early fall. They went away on their own before very long. Winnipeg is the VD Capital of My Sexual Youth. I had just moved there. And then came the Herpes, with the only sex partner I had had in a year and a half.

Dr Velvet Thong: Did you use condoms with him?

Blinky: Yes, every time, and I bought them myself out of my limited funds while on welfare in Winnipeg, and I put them on him myself.

He was weirdly lazy, or I guess maybe it was like he didn't really want to be having sex, and I semi-raped him, every night for a couple of months. It was like I was the one who undressed him and myself, took care of all the foreplay, and had to be on top, every time. That's it, that was our relationship. It could be that it got off to a bad start because he was worried about passing the herpes on to me. He told me he had dated his last serious girlfriend for a year before she would allow any sexual contact, so maybe I had pushed him into things before he really felt ready.

He was a slum landlord. He owned and rented out approximately 14 properties, and owned the house I rented my self-contained apartment in. He wasn't a very conscientious landlord, but I never nagged him about that. We went for walks and bike rides every night for 3 weeks, and he still hadn't made a move, so I made one. I knew I didn't want a long-term thing, but I did want to have sex, to see what it was like, and in Winnipeg, you have something like 6 weeks of summer, and the rest is winter. It wasn't going to be summer forever. So. He resisted, but not too hard. I didn't pursue him the way Truck Driver did me.

I eventually broke up with him, but one night a couple of months later I was really seriously horny, and I knocked on his door and was pretty persistent, and I was very thin, and he tried to say no, but then gave in. I used a condom, and was again on top. We were on the floor this time, and I was holding on to something to get more traction, and it was energetic enough to cause rug burns on my knees, and it was pretty good and I lost my sense of what I was doing, and forgot to hold onto the base of the condom, and when I got off, part of it stayed inside and was spilling everywhere, and that woke me up fast.

I was most worried about pregnancy, and so first thing the next morning I went to a free clinic and got a morning after pill. You have to take them for two days, I think, but the instructions said you had to take them with food and I had none. I mean none, and it was going to be several days until I would get my next welfare cheque. So I asked him if I could have a dollar to buy food. At Safeway, I could get day old pastries for a dollar. They were these big rectangular things with cream and raspberry filling. I got 4 for $1. They came in one of those clear plastic hinged things grocery store bakeries still use. I rationed them for the 2 days. I felt guilty about having to ask for a dollar. But, in our whole relationship, even though he was considerably better off than me, he never bought condoms, or took me to dinner, and only once he bought me a salad, in a takeaway container, sort of like the one the pastries came in.

He's the guy who complained about the way I cooked Kraft Dinner and corn on the cob. The package directions on K-D are simply wrong, and you can't get it right unless you cook it for an hour. And corn needs at least an hour, too. But maybe because I had weird food issues, I sometimes attracted guys with weird food issues, too.

I mean, even the hockey player was like a carnivore extreme. His parents owned a butcher shop, and although he was only about 24 or 25 when we met, and although he was strong, athletic and sexy-looking, he had already experienced gout.

My landlord and I never had sex again. I had my first outbreak a couple of weeks later, and it was the common experience people have of the worst outbreak they ever get.

Dr Velvet Thong: Did you confront him about it?

Blinky: He was away on a trip and when he got back I sought him out and told him my diagnosis, and asked him if he had it. I said I just wanted to know more about what to expect.

He asked if he could have it and not know it, and I said yes, but it seemed to me like he knew and was trying to figure out what I knew and hedge his bets and he also knew he had an outbreak on the day in question and he had been hoping it wouldn't come to this and that's why after the incident he hightailed it to BC to visit his sister for a few weeks, after he turned the furnace down to criminal levels in the Winnipeg winter, and was unreachable by phone.

I don't think I came across in an angry or accusatory way. I suppose it was something of an admission when he said that I was a 'good-hearted person'. I asked him some other questions but he had to leave, and he avoided me after that.

Dr Velvet Thong: Other than that, what was the relationship like?

Blinky: It didn't make me feel very good about myself. After we broke up (I broke up with him because after a couple of months of sex, I was finding the relationship unsatisfying, and he cried and hid under the covers), he said there never was any oomph in our relationship, and during it, he seemed to compare me unfavourably to sex workers, saying he liked them because they had good bargaining skills. But also, I think he probably had a thing for talking dirty in bed, and wanted me to take hints, but I didn't have any experience at that stage.

He's the only guy I remember that used to flush condoms down the toilet after use, like it was somehow shameful to put them in the regular trash, or leave evidence of sex. I was always worried the toilet would back up, because none of the buildings he owned or the facilities therein were in great condition. (The condoms did have semen in them. I know because I was the one who put them on, and took them off. I'd go to put them in the trash, and he'd take them from there.)

As for the fondness for sex workers, I think he often used to drive around the notorious areas, like Portage and Main? I'm not sure if I can remember. He'd roll down his window and talk to them. That's as much as he told me, so I don't know how far it all went. He didn't like spending money, so maybe he tried to see how low he could get the price down?

I was just this loser on welfare, and at least sex workers were earning their own way in the world. And the thing is, I agreed with that, and still do. They could do something I could not and still cannot learn to do. Support themselves.

And the thing is, if at the time public knowledge of herpes had been more advanced, I wouldn't have gone through what I did or felt so alone or scared, not to mention judged by the doctor who diagnosed me, and he wouldn't have had such trouble telling new partners, and nobody would really be looking at the situation with the intent of finding somewhere to place the blame of infection. Readers wouldn't be assuming I'm fudging the facts of 'slutdom' or not giving him a fair shake, or, jumping to the conclusion he got it from sex workers.

Dr Velvet Thong: It seems there's some precedence here. In the past, family members, for example The Bumble and Sister Smurf, seemed to value those with other qualities over yours, and you were graciously humble and open-minded about it. Do you think that deep down you're a good Catholic or Christian after all?

Blinky: Looks puzzled. I think in the family, I'm considered the one who sees the negative in everything, and I'm not sure it's not true. But in the past, I don't remember consciously feeling mad at people, or that I hated people, or ever wished them ill, and I was ashamed any time I had an even remotely negative thought, or casually gossiped about anyone. When these things occurred, they were like reflexes I was deeply ashamed about, and over the years I struggled to root them out.

Dr Velvet Thong: How did your mother try to infect you?

Blinky: I don't know if Mama Smurf always had oral herpes, or if she got it from Neil. It always just seemed like a normal thing, just one of those things that happens in life sometimes. It was just such a normal thing that other relatives could easily have had them, and I just don't remember because it wasn't that big a deal, except when someone was trying to kiss you.

I don't know if it was only when I was 12-13 or so that I pulled back when she tried to kiss me when she had a big one on her mouth. I said something like 'Aren't those things contagious?' As far as I know, I didn't really judge her for having cold sores, but I didn't really want to catch them myself.

She made it very clear I had hurt her feelings, and I felt bad about it, but it was difficult for me to find that incentive enough to say 'Sorry about that, go ahead, kiss away.' So if she kissed any or all of us when we were younger and she had sores, my memory is not good enough to remember.

I don't think the best solution is to tell all mothers with oral herpes to avoid ever kissing their children, even when they don't have sores. I think the commonsense thing is to avoid kissing when you have sores or symptoms, and the same goes for genital herpes.

But, given Mama Smurf's reaction to me, it seems possible that she didn't take herpes seriously, and would have kissed her boyfriend, and even given him oral, and not thought it was any big deal. 'If you love me, don't be squeamish.' If that was her attitude, I wonder how many other people pre-1980s had similar attitudes to herpes, before all the hype spread about it being almost as bad as HIV.

I mean if you think about it.. centuries in which possibly 1 in 4 or so people had genital herpes, and even 1 in 2 having oral.. and no one making all that much fuss about it?

Dr Velvet Thong: Now, it seems almost preferable to acquire HIV. With the meds, with tests you virtually seem 'virusfree'. Not that it's fun to take meds forever, but with the stigma in relation to herpes.. wouldn't that be a fun debate? Is it now worse to have herpes than HIV? Which side would you argue?

Blinky: Maybe everyone should make a note of looking at their family members and think of the stats: 1 in 4, 1 in 2.

Dr Velvet Thong: Yes, but only a fraction of those with either ever have symptoms.

Blinky: Which doesn't mean they can't pass it on.

Dr Velvet Thong: And crowds, too. Everytime someone is in public, think of the stats. And every time you watch a movie, not just porn.

Blinky: Er yes, but some tv shows, even medical shows seem keen on perpetuating the idea that only 'certain types of people' have things like herpes. House and Grey's come to mind. All those medical interns who have come and gone over the years, all the actors who played them.. remember the stats, people. And House, taking 13 to a seedy bar and telling her this was her future, with herpes, as if she couldn't get it from having sex at the 'clean' hospital, or maybe even House himself. Yikes.

Dr Velvet Thong: Yes, there is a problem with people thinking that only certain types of people are likely to have herpes, and you can make good guesses, just by looking at people.

Blinky: I know there are many scientific reasons it might be difficult to come up with a vaccine or cure, but to me it also seems those who sell antivirals might not really have much incentive to offer one. They don't even have to reinforce the shame - pop culture and people themselves are only too willing to keep that ball rolling. And as long as we have that, they can sell us a way of trying to keep it in check, not cure it, when really it is probably mostly needed by the small percentage with the worst symptoms.

Dr Velvet Thong: And Don Quixote?

Blinky: Well, we know there are false positives and negatives with herpes tests, but he has tested negative for both HSV1 and HSV2, and has never experienced symptoms. (I test positive for HSV2).

And I know that if he feels relieved, and I'm relieved, in a way that contributes to the stigma, and makes it seem like I'm damaged and diseased and thank whoever that at least I didn't ruin this poor virgin's life, and he can now go on to find Someone Better, someone not afflicted, and experience True, Pure Love and all that.

Dr Velvet Thong: You need to try harder to avoid looking at it that way.

Blinky: My attitudes about it all now are different, but when I first met him, I was so scared of giving it to him that the stress of it all probably brought on more outbreaks. But eventually, it wasn't just about that. I didn't want to be in any relationship long-term when I'd have to use condoms every time, forever.

Dr Velvet Thong: Has anyone ever accused you of infecting them?

Blinky: As far as I know, Gandhi didn't get it either. He never had symptoms. We used condoms in the beginning, but then he got a vasectomy, and in the next years, we never used them, we just counted on me knowing when an outbreak was approaching, being aware of prodromal symptoms, and letting him know. And in those years, my outbreaks were mild, and only occurred a few times a year.

And other than that, no.

The Herpes Fairy

The Herpes Fairy

A dream sequence that is repeated every now and then, maybe to help break up some of the longer, tedious sections. 'Magical' twinkling light effects, a naked fairy with hot pink wings and hair flying in from somewhere, maybe fluffy cotton candy pink clouds, and then the camera focusing in on her as flowers 'bloom' on her lips, her vulva, and then porn-style she turns and bends over and they also bloom out of her asshole. An assortment of pink and purple hued fireworks exploding all around, in the shapes of flowers. Meanwhile, she smiles and is extremely attractive, and sweet. Probably a lot of pink, as far as colour scheme and flowers.

The Herpes Fairy: Hello everyone.. Have you, or has someone you know, recently been diagnosed with HSV 1 or 2? I am here to help you look on the bright side of VD, by sharing some fun facts.

But first, a question:

Does anyone really want to use condoms every time they have sex for the rest of their lives?

1 in 4, 1 in 2. What do the statistics really mean, in a practical sense?

Everywhere you go, think to yourself: 1 in 4 have genital herpes, 1 in 2 have oral. Anyone can have it, it's not about being 'dirty' or slutty, or whatever, and a person can acquire it in love their first time out, or they can even get it from their mother. Anyone in your family can have it, friends can have it, people in your school, people in hospitals, meticulous people who work in labs - it's not just something you catch in a seedy bar. There might even be some genetic predisposition, such that even people who have had tons of sex and don't use condoms sometimes don't get it.

But before you get too scared, think about this: the vast majority of those who have it don't know they have it. I'm just estimating for now, and my statistics aren't exact, but roughly, perhaps only about 1 in 20 or so of those who have it know they have it.

Yes, even when you don't have it, you can pass it on, because the virus can be active (in the prodrome stage) without sores being present. But this is more encouraging and less horrifying than you think. And before you rush to insist that everyone be tested, think about this:

1. The tests are notoriously unreliable, with both false positives and negatives.

2. A herpes diagnosis tends to be psychologically devastating, for no good reason. The stats don't support the hype.

1 in 4, 1 in 2, the stats don't support the hype, surely you jest?

The reason most people don't know they have it is that either their symptoms are very mild, or completely unnoticed/nonexistent.

For the vast majority of those who have either type, this is the case.

But surely we must be careful, and the responsible thing to do is to isolate all carriers and make sure they don't pass it on?

People, it's not ebola. It's a mild skin condition, that for the vast majority who have it, say 1 in 4 or 5 who have it, so 1 in 20 or so of the general population, results in blisters a few times a year which go away on their own within a week or 10 days. It's an inconvenience, but people can avoid sexual contact during those times.

As for oral herpes, it's not significantly different from genital herpes. Would you tell 1 in 2 people that they had to inform all potential kissing partners or oral sex partners that they had a legal obligation to inform people they have herpes? And a moral/ethical one, too? Doesn't it make more sense to tell people: avoid kissing anyone, having oral sex (for oral herpes) and avoid genital contact (for genital herpes) when you have sores or prodromal symptoms (itching, tingling)?

Yes, with this method, some people will contract herpes, but the vast majority will not get it the first time they have sex with someone, and might not ever get it at all. Of those who do get it, only about 25% will ever have symptoms. That's not 25% of the whole sexually active population, it's a quarter of a quarter of the population. I'm only giving rough stats, to make it easier to grasp the concepts.

The unfortunate risk relates to the (probably) less than 1% who have the most severe symptoms. I won't lie, those are no picnic, but to spread panic and propaganda about herpes is to make everyone afraid this outcome constitutes unacceptable risk. You take bigger risks every day driving your car, or leaving the house.

Those afflicted with the worst symptoms deserve support and compassion, and not to be treated like lepers. Antivirals are quite effective, and hopefully can help most of them, but again, in cases where there doesn't seem to be much help for suffering, sufferers deserve compassion, and people working on better solutions.

The Hype about Herpes engenders fear, discrimination, sexual segregation, shame, and can be psychologically devastating to one's self-esteem and sexual identity. It doesn't have to be this way.

PS: Did you know:

Chickenpox is herpes?
Mono is herpes?
Shingles too?

It would be unconscionable, not to mention impractical to insist the entire population of the world had regular herpes tests to weed out all who had oral or genital herpes, even if the tests were reliable, regardless of expense or lack thereof. It would be unconscionable and wildly unrealistic to insist that 25-50% of the population tell every potential partner of their diagnoses, and that they should NEVER kiss or have any kind of intercourse or oral sex without using a condom, to be as safe as possible. Plus, we don't even have mouth condoms, and dental dams don't seem practical or designed for mouth to mouth kissing.

Maybe we will have a kind of sexual elitism, with some people proud of the fact they're completely HSV-free, but the current tests aren't accurate enough to prove such claims. What we need to get rid of is a kind of 'moral superiority stance' related to this whole issue. It wouldn't hurt to get rid of the stupid jokes (technically ignorant), either. It's healthier for everyone's sexuality in the long run.

If the drug companies already have a cure or vaccine and are holding it back so they can keep people feeling ashamed and therefore motivated to control symptoms and conscientiously reduce the risk for partners (with antivirals that are expensive in most places) in perpetuity, they're pretty evil, and we all have to make decisions as to whether to negatively reinforce them or not. But since we can't go making unfounded allegations without proof, for now we can at least try to make some attitude adjustments.

Ace of Cups

Closeup of a crusty, weeping herpes sore with facial features, and a sad expression, speaking these lines on a deserted beach, at sunset, with waves gently washing against the shore. In the same hushed-sincere tones as those of a character in a Terrence Malick film:

Herb P.: All those years.. living the life of an infectious disease...

Misunderstood, shunned, hated. Afraid to show my face in public. Afraid to speak words of love, afraid that I could never be loved, for myself...


Helveeta's Herpes Happiness Blog


Counting my blessings one blister at a time...

A religious girl who is raped gets herpes and scrapbooks about her outbreaks. Her mother becomes concerned as her coping mechanisms become more extreme, her attempts to look on the bright side of VD more desperate, and books her an appointment with Dr Velvet Thong.

Dr Velvet Thong: Helveeta, your mother called to book an appointment for you because she is concerned in relation to your personal blog, as well as some rather nasty feedback you have been receiving. I'd like to ask you a few questions about your blog, if I may.

Helveeta: Fire away, I'm happy to talk about anything you want, happy to help spread the good news, and get to work at reducing stigma and shame, promoting peace and love throughout the world. Amen! Praise Jesus!

Dr Velvet Thong: According to your intro, you, a 17 year old virgin, were raped and physically assaulted, spent two weeks in a coma, and you woke up to a herpes diagnosis.

Helveeta: smiling from ear to ear, rocking and raising hands to heaven Yes, it was a blessing sent from The One True Lord of Heaven and Worker of Miracles, the day I was saved, the day everything changed.

Dr Velvet Thong: Did you become a Christian after the incident?

Helveeta: No, I was already a Christian, and I was probably a 'good girl', but in my heart, in my soul, I wasn't really ready to Love, in the truest sense of the word. And Jesus knew that, and in his Wisdom and Kindness, he sent me this Gift, the Gift of Purpose, and Unconditional Love.

Dr Velvet Thong: And your mission is to spread the Gospel about Herpes, to reduce stigma and shame by posting photos of your outbreaks, zooming in and giving names to individual sores, and writing positive affirmations and positive facts beneath the photos?

Helveeta: Yes! And personally, I like to give them names of celebrities, because it gives them more 'personality' than regular names would, and I hope will draw more people toward my message of Hope. And anyone can have herpes, even celebrities, and everyone is desperately in need of this message of Hope. I also like to invent positive backstories for my little sores, like 'positive gossip' to combat all the negativity.

Dr Velvet Thong: Helveeta, these images are rather graphic and high resolution.

Helveeta: People need to see the Truth! I am in a category of less than 1% of those blessed with HSV, who experience the most extreme symptoms, and therefore I am in the best position to Shine the Light, light the way for others, because I can say, I know what you are going through, and you CAN get through this and find your way to LOVE.

Dr Velvet Thong: Your mother says that you have been bombarded with negative feedback and no positive feedback and that all of your friends have become frightened that you are mentally ill. How do you feel about that?

Helveeta: Nobody, not even the Lord Himself, ever promised me a rose garden. My path is not the easiest, but now that I can see it, I have Faith and I will persevere, come what may.

Dr Velvet Thong: Since you began your blog, have you been asked on any dates, or have you asked anyone out? Hmmm, let me rethink this a moment. What are your thoughts on finding love?

Helveeta: The Lord works in mysterious ways, and as long as I have Faith, he will guide me to my Soulmate, my One True Love. I already have Love in my life! I will never be without it.

By bestowing this gift upon me, the gift of Herpes Simplex, no False Love will come to me, no Pretenders, no Pranksters, they will look upon His Mark, His Blessing, and Fear Him, to their Souls. Only the True-Hearted, only the one who can truly Love my Unique and Shining Soul and Good Works will truly see me.

Dr Velvet Thong: One of the least unkind comments is 'Jesus fucking Christ die already you deranged diseased cunt'. Are you sure you don't feel bad about the comments?

Helveeta: I have enough Love in my heart for all the Sinners and Blasphemers. They should be pitied, not feared or hated, they need His Healing for their hurts which cause them to lash out at the world, driving Love away when they need it most.

Dr Velvet Thong: Do you think herpes is an obstacle in the sense that it prevents people from perceiving unique souls and beauty, even if it had turned out someone had contracted herpes by rape, even if before that they were virgins? Imagine the Stories about Love differently.. all the attraction at the beginning, and then.. does the plot just stop because you can't have True Love or mild bdsm if you've got a sexual disease? You can't work around it?

Helveeta: Everyone's path to Love is different, as it should be, according to God's plan. Because He Loves me, he saved something special for me, and he has his reasons. I don't think it matters how you get it.

But thank you! Dr Velvet Thong. Thanks to you, I have been inspired to reinterpret all the classic love stories from this unique perspective.

Dr Velvet Thong: And if you lived a long life and never found True Love?

Helveeta: I already have His Love, forever and ever. This lifetime is but a drop in the bucket of infinity.

Dr Velvet Thong: What if you found out you had to have herpes or something like it forever and ever?

Helveeta: In His Infinite Wisdom and Love, he would not send me something I could not bear. I just got an idea! I could change the name of my blog to Helveeta's Eternal Herpes Happiness blog, let me think. Thank you Dr Velvet Thong! for helping me to more fully understand His ever-expanding Love and Wisdom. Herpes is a blessing from God, never a curse, even if there is NEVER a cure!

Dr Velvet Thong: OK, Helveeta, I'm going to recommend to your mother that you be allowed to continue blogging. If all the negativity hasn't driven you to suicide by now, I don't think it's gonna. You have creativity in your life, you have alternative 'friends' and an internal world/community that gives you support, you have spirituality, and maybe you're stronger than a lot of people out there. Who am I to say your delusions are worse than anyone else's? Carry on.

Helveeta: Bless you, Dr Velvet Thong! I will keep you in my prayers.

Flash to a Herpes Nudist Beach, where people can lie in the sun and dry out their sores without fear of shame or stigma. Seriously, if a person has active sores, they would probably feel self-conscious about attending nudist events. Herpes Nudist Grocery Shopping. Herpes Organic Freetrade Cafe, with welcoming signs that say Please! Have a Seat, (with smiley faces). But the kicker is that they're all integrated, so anyone at all can go there.

Dr Velvet Thong: Have you thought about letting people get to know you for yourself first, before springing the herpes on them?

Helveeta: But that's just it, Dr Thong, my openness about it and my approach to it are an important part of who I am. It wouldn't make sense to conceal that, to pretend to be less than what I am.

Dr Velvet Thong: It's perhaps an unpleasant aspect of human nature, but humans are social animals, and there is a very strong need for societal approval and acceptance. Unfortunately, many people might be afraid that if they are seen to support you publicly, it could ruin their social and sex lives, because others might assume that support means they themselves have herpes.

Helveeta: Excuse me Dr Velvet Thong, I feel a massive episode coming on, and I want to start documenting from start to finish. I'll see you next week, if it's over by then.

Happy Days

Dr Velvet Thong: Let's see if we can find ways of accessing some of your happier memories. I know that for a few years, watching Happy Days with your siblings was the highlight of the week.


1. March Break 1976. It was after The Bumble had moved out, and Mama Smurf and Neil took us on a road trip to Florida. We also went to Alabama. Gulf Shores, Alabama was the setting for one of my best memories ever. Very early in the morning, Cecil and I went to the beach and walked along the shore, at sunrise, collecting shells. Everyone else was still sleeping. We weren't together, we were both doing our own thing. I just remember that I liked everything about it, the look of the sunrise, the feel of the waves and the warmth of the day. I thought that some day in the future, when I was 'in love', I'd want to come back and do this with someone.

And when we came back to the hotel, what I remember was the smell of cinnamon toast coming from Mama Smurf and Neil's room. It smelled like the most delicious thing in the world. Maybe that even has something to do with why both Cecil and I are Dune fans, who knows. I got to have a piece of cinnamon toast, but the taste wasn't as good as the smell. But I still remember how incredible it smelled, and how much I wanted it.

2. Salty! I know most people think my biggest attachment to a pet was to my cat, only one cat, but I think my favourite family pet was a shared dog, a white cockapoo named Salty.

She had the most beautiful temperament of any pet we ever had. And when we lived in Northern Ontario at the fishing resort, Mama Smurf would let her loose when she knew we were coming down the road off the bus from school, and Salty would be so happy to see us she would just BOUNCE down the road toward us, bounce, leap, run, with such incredible joy. She was this white ball of fluff, with incredible momentum, bouncing down the road toward us. One year she was really cute as part of Beany's Halloween costume, Beany was Little Bo Peep who found her sheep, Salty was her sheep.

3. When I was 17, in the summer of 1983, and was fit and thin and had a good hairdo and a tan, and had finished a year of school by correspondence and was at least theoretically able to continue on with my academic career, I had the most 'hope' I probably ever had for my life. And when I had the empty house to myself for a while before moving in to The Beaches house, that period of hope stands out as one of the best times of my life. (Even though the swimming pool was green and unsafe to swim in.)

Blinky: The smell of rubbing alcohol still lifts my spirits. I know it'a a bit of an odd thing to have positive associations with.

When I was just about to turn 12, I really wanted to get my ears pierced, and The Bumble had offered to take me as my birthday present. Mama Smurf fought both of us fiercely on this. Her fear/prejudice was that it would be a permanent mutilation that I wouldn't be able to take back years later when I came to my senses. She herself never got her ears pierced, and neither did Beany. It was the kind of thing that made a woman impure, unclean, Unnatural, or no, what's the word.. flawed? Damaged? It was almost as bad as sex before marriage, the way she went on about it.

She later bought me a subscription to Seventeen Magazine as a 13th birthday present, and wasn't at all worried that would mutilate me in any way.

Dr Velvet Thong: Blinky! Focus! Let's try to stay with the positive associations.

Blinky: I don't know how they do it now, but in those days, when you got your ears pierced, you had to wipe them with rubbing alcohol and turn the studs to disturb the crustiness that had formed. I performed this chore quite happily.

Dr Velvet Thong: Did you come to regret your decision?

Blinky: Not for a second. And Mama Smurf later bought me pretty gold earrings.

It is possible that Mama Smurf passed on some of her attitudes about makeup, purity, etc, to the others.

Dr Velvet Thong: Er, the topic here is 'happy memories'. It is a bit of a worry that your memory seems to link more easily to unpleasant associations.

Blinky: The first chrismukkah I spent alone. The Bumble and K-Pru had gone back to visit everyone in Toronto while I was left on my own in an empty house in Winnipeg. As soon as they left, I cleaned the house, then cleared all the furniture out of the way, and made the livingroom into a big dancefloor.

I did nothing but listen to records and tapes and watch Muchmusic and dance. I ate cheese tortellini and Mother Bumble's shortbread. I danced every day, for hours and hours. I slept in the middle of the dancefloor.

Because I enjoyed it so much, it was hard after that to ever go back to 'normal' holiday celebrations.

It reminded me of the highs I sometimes had when running a long distance, especially at night, in summer, in the rain.

Dr Velvet Thong: You've come up with some good memories, so let's leave it here for now.

Blinky: But shouldn't we be talking about why these memories mostly don't contain people? Like maybe I never really liked the way others saw me, or my place in the scheme of things, or I felt like I was in the wrong place, and the only times I could feel hopeful about my life and prospects was when I was on my own?

Dr Velvet Thong: No. You need to learn to focus.

University of Disorganized Thinking

Blinky: I didn't really know how to look for a good place to live for myself, but I did go with Cecil to help him look for a rental when he couldn't stay in residence at McMaster any more. I also sent him singing chocolate chip cookies from Winnipeg in a care package and he said I was a peach. And I explained how to make very simple curtains for his place, and helped him pick out some fabric. I think now I would have tried to offer more support, but sometimes it takes a while to understand what is lacking. We were all on our own in different ways in those years. He had the hope of a future, and although he had to do the work and cope with the stress, he belonged to an important club. At the time, Boo and Beany also were on their own, but had important social ties. By the time I was 18, I had no future.

When I was 12, I took some test in school that said apparently I was already reading and writing at a university level. This was a couple of years after I wrote the book about the crime-solving cat (the Nancy Drew slash Farrah Fawcett of the cat world, modelled on my own cat, but sexier, like those fluffballs frolicking with toilet rolls in commercials of the day) and skipped a grade.

I wanted more than anything to go to university, and when I actually visited one, I ended up drunk, reading palms for drunk Non-Losers. I had been studying palmistry at the time. I was making lemonade. Later on, I read tarot cards at Halloween parties and other occasions, for siblings, their SOs, and friends - basically for whoever wanted it done. It was a way not to have to talk about myself, and it was generally well-received. It was for 'free', so I wasn't trying to scam anyone. Everyone does want to have a special destiny, that's a given, but sometimes it's helpful to come at tricky feelings or experiences from a creative angle, and to just have someone to talk to who can hopefully guide you through it in a helpful way and give you something to focus on within your value and belief systems that feels hopeful to you.

Cecil invited Boo, me and some of Boo's friends to a party at the Bates Motel, an infamous residence at McMaster University. Cecil was studying mechanical engineering, and eventually won a full scholarship to do his master's degree. His thesis sounded like something straight out of Star Trek, something about replication.

Which reminds me.. that night I learned how to make a Sip and Go Naked. It's pretty disgusting.. you go around collecting all the part or half-finished drinks at a party with nothing too obvious or gross floating in them, you combine them all in a pitcher with some lemonade, you stir, drink it down fast so you don't dwell on how gross it is, and the rest is self-explanatory.

I didn't go naked that night, because of skin issues, and probably also I did understand the caste system there. That night was remarkable because it is the first and only time I have ever been kicked out of a bar. Basically, I was doing my Wild Thing a bit too wildly, and I got kicked out of a campus pub, where you'd think they'd be used to the outrageous behaviour of students in their salad days/heydays. Ah, my university days.. day.

I did not have to go alone into that chilly Hamilton evening. Boo was by my side in an instant and said that if she's kicked out, I'm leaving, too! No such show of loyalty from Cecil, though. I had embarrassed him, or lived up to his low expectations of me, I guess. I was never invited back.

Dr Velvet Thong: Tell me about Cecil's dating history.

Blinky: I only ever met two of his girlfriends, although I saw some photos of a couple other girls I think he might have fooled around with, and he ended up marrying the second girlfriend I met. The first one dumped him around graduation from uni, and she met our family once, and I got the impression we came across as a bunch of bucktoothed hillbilly yokels and we horrified her. He said she did well in school. She was blond, with large breasts and he implied she had some kind of really strange eating issues/disorder. Maybe if he didn't have the skin condition there would have been more girlfriends, but it also kind of sounded like he experienced a lot of the usual rites of passage, like the obligatory naked Twister parties and whatnot, despite the skin thing.

When he graduated from high school, it coincided with The Bumble's second wedding and honeymoon. He threw a party at the house while The Bumble was on his honeymoon with K-Pru, and there was a 'bring home the best sign contest'. He and someone else had managed to dismantle and bring home a street lamp. I always thought that was a scream. It showed imagination, ambition, and skill. Not to mention physical strength.

He played doubles badminton, and I think he was pretty good at it.

He's a very 'respectable' type, but he's also the type of guy who once you get a few beers in him, goes around saying 'nice choice of shirt' to females. He even said that to me once, when I wore a sleeveless white mockneck that made my breasts look bigger than they were. And who gets a kick out of CCing movies of women in stilettos crushing guys' nutsacks or jerking off horses.

Once, when we were dancing drunk, he made some comment about wanting to see me naked and being willing to live with the scars.

Sometimes it was fun when Boo, Cecil and their SOs and friends, and me and Gandhi went out dancing, but I had to be completely drunk, and bar dancing is not the same high as dancing sober alone with no self-consciousness whatsoever, and no pressure to not get kicked out. Of the club, or the social group.

We went to The Bop, The Zoo, but we only went to the Bovine Sex Club once. I always thought the name was funny, but there's not that much room there. Later, when I went out dancing with my brothers' girlfriends, I'd often start at Left Bank, but always end up at The Velvet Underground. But the thing is, while going out a few times a year blind drunk to dance with my brothers was a way of maintaining family ties for a while, in the end I couldn't hold it together. It was kind of like the way females get to a point in a relationship where they say 'where's this all going?' And if I couldn't find a suicide partner, I started to lose interest.

It's true that I hoped someone would watch me dance and at least find me interesting and want to get to know me, but mostly they just commented they wanted to see me naked. That's what my 'creative self-expression' evoked. And I know that's how it starts for men, but I could hazard a guess as to where it was going, even if I am not particularly psychic.

Little Pond, Big Pond

Blinky: When he was 11, The Bumble almost drowned, and since then he never liked to go in the water.

His father was a good diver, and also a long distance swimmer, and the day The Bumble got caught in a rip, he almost pulled his father down with him. His father managed to save him, but was black and blue all over, and covered with scratches. The Bumble never got back on the horse, so to speak, but maybe it was because he thought his father was mad at him for almost drowning him.

He sometimes went to the beach with us when we were little, but he was always like this shadowy figure in shades, and now I realize it probably triggered trauma and PTSD symptoms every time, and I understand better now why Mama Smurf became the one in charge of taking us to the beach or doing anything swimming-related.

He also hated hot weather, and preferred snow and winter, and meanwhile, we all loved summer and water, and for 3 of us, it was the only chance to have as normal as possible skin.

I lived for summer, and I liked being in water, and it was hard to get me out of it, even when I developed problem earaches and had to wear a horrible bathing cap. And so The Bumble was not usually part of my best memories of childhood.

Dr Velvet Thong: How old were you when you learned to swim?

Blinky: I'm not totally sure. Maybe 5 or so. I sometimes had lessons in public pools in colder months and it was stressful because of my skin. I used to try to sit away from the other kids when not in the pool, and lifesaving skills were particularly troublesome.

The summer I was 10, and we spent a good deal of the summer camping with Mama Smurf and her bf, I had swimming lessons in summer, in an outdoor Olympic-sized pool. At the time, we were renting a cottage for a while, and the 4 of us went to day camp for about 8 hours a day, so Mama Smurf and her bf could have some alone time.

I hated day camp, but as a kid, I had no rights.

We're from Hanover Day Camp
We'll make his-tor-ee
As we go marching
On to vic-tor-ee...

I was to take a condensed course of swimming lessons (Red Cross, Lifesaving) on my lunch break from day camp. I had to go for lessons every day, instead of once a week.

The first day, I scarfed my lunch down as fast as possible, then ran over to the pool, and within a few minutes of swimming, something happened that had never happened to me before: I got cramps.

The instructor lectured me that you had to be strong to pass this course. It involved swimming lots of laps. I knew better than to be a whiny little bitch, so I said nothing about my lunch, and for the duration, I went to lessons hungry, and ate after, while running back to the camp. I never had cramps again.

I was the youngest and smallest kid in the class by far, and it was a big class (about 25-30 kids) The others were all about 15-16.

It was the summer Nadia Comaneci won all those 10s. My one piece suit was white and red and blue, with Canadian flags and Olympic symbols on it. We were able to watch some of the Olympics with very poor reception on the old black and white tv in the cottage.

On the day of the big test, there was a team of instructors/officials with clipboards keeping track of everyone. I was so busy concentrating on swimming my laps with perfect technique for each of the strokes that I wasn't paying attention to how anyone else was doing. I only know that I managed to swim them all, in the time designated.

Treading water wasn't a problem for me; I probably could have kept going for several days, with long periods only using either legs or arms.

For the lifesaving portion of the test, I was paired with Gretchen, a tall, heavy, freckled redhead, the largest kid in the class. She was the one I had to rescue. I was actually relieved, because she was shy, and nice and kind of self-conscious, and in a way that made things easier for me than the size handicap issue made things difficult.

Only 5 kids passed the course that day, and I was one of them.

Dr Velvet Thong: You came to be known as The Negative One, the one who gives up easy, the defeatist of the bunch.

Blinky: For a brief moment, I was a big fish in a little pond, I guess. If things come too easily to you, you don't ever learn how to try really hard.

Dr Velvet Thong: Can you tell me more about these Falls I keep hearing about?

Blinky: Mama Smurf and Neil decided to take a big risk and buy the summer fishing resort up north, near Manitoulin Island. There were 5 cabins, a marina with various boats with outboard motors for rent, some gas pumps, a gift and snack shop, and a trailer park with outhouses.

The boys were to mow the lawns, man the pumps, and act as fishing guides. My job was to clean cabins and work the register in the gift shop (it was an old-fashioned one, it might have been broken, and I had to manually add and subtract things on a pad of paper.) Mama Smurf and Neil were the friendly hosts, Mama Smurf kept the books and settled accounts, and both did our jobs too, as well as the main organizing and running the place. I think Beany was young enough that she wasn't expected to do much.

I also had house chores. Since around the age of 7, when Mama Smurf had to go to the hospital to have a cyst removed, I started to wash dishes. In the beginning I had to stand on something to be able to reach. We had to make our beds every day. Other chores rotated somewhat, but there was a big chart in the laundry room, and we were supposed to check chores off as we completed them. I had to do things like sweep the kitchen and laundry room floors, but there was an assortment of things, not too major.

Meanwhile, when I moved in with The Bumble and Natalie, he once told me that she expected me to do more, but I didn't really know as I had no direction. I was understandably confused, because it had always been so different to visit the Bumble as compared to Mama Smurf. I did barn chores, I cut the lawn when directed, I became the nighttime dishwasher (this includes things like washing down counters and tables and chairs), I swept floors on my own initiative, and occasionally vacuumed, but other than that, there was no chore schedule and no discussion. And I think maybe she thought it was a sign of stupidity that I didn't just know what needed to be done and do it. I think the problem was that when staying with The Bumble, there had always been a different vibe, and things 'felt' less structured, regular, consistent.

I told Natalie I wanted to learn to cook, but she wasn't very big on details, and she seemed extremely annoyed and put out that at 13 I didn't already know how to do simple things like cook a roast. When it came to baking, I learned how to do things from looking at recipes and factoring in what I'd seen her do from a distance/peripherally. And when I wanted to do calligraphy for a school project, instead of explaining anything, she plunked down the instruction book, a pen and some ink and some parchment paper, and walked away. I practised on regular paper, and then came up with something really good. She was a graphic artist, she made her living that way, and she never really complimented me on any art project I did, and I never had the impression I was anything more than average in this area. In my late 20s however, I found out through The Bumble that she thought I was a Little Bitch. Also, she knew how to sew and do lots of arts and crafts, and she never offered to help decorate my bedroom, even though I had asked to change it, and it was seriously ugly, with really cheap tacky car wallpaper and really ugly matching curtains. If only I had known then what can be done with a $10 bucket of Canadian Tire paint (circa 1979) and a trip to Fabricland.

The first night we met her was the infamous lobsters in the tub night. And I think the next day she did do an arts and crafts project with us, with rocks we glued together and then painted. I made a cute little ladybug, simple maybe (I thought 'too simple', but it was well- executed, and the red and black colours were quite striking), and this other one, with a sort of flat rectangular rock with very smooth edges.. I glued on ears and painted a turquoise blue Frankenstein monster face.. with black hair, and I was embarrassed that I hadn't made something pretty, but thinking back now, it was probably pretty awesome and it's too bad I don't still have it. I don't think she was amused, and she found she didn't like working with kids, so she didn't try that kind of thing with us again.

Also, Mama Smurf had a massive vegetable garden out back which she tended, and when I was there, it was often my job to pull weeds. It should be noted that Mama Smurf had many skills, including that she knew how to can and preserve and freeze many things. When we were younger, we had trips to the Niagara region to pick fruit for canning and preserving and making into pies to freeze. In Northern Ontario, at the right time of year, we'd go on wild blueberry and raspberry expeditions for the same reason.

And while up North, near Manitoulin, she learned how to tap the trees and boil down the sap to make maple syrup. It seemed to take a long time, and the smokiness in the house was rather unpleasant, but it also seemed worth it to endure it.

I was also an unofficial lifeguard. After the day was out and our chores were done/the gift shop was closed up or Mama Smurf took the late shift, we'd get in a boat and head to The Falls. I learned how to drive a boat, and I took quite a few turns at it, but Boo was always the most comfortable with that job. As the oldest, because I had distinguished myself in swimming and lifesaving, the lives of the younger ones were entrusted to my care when we went swimming at The Falls, as well as the lives of any stepsiblings or friends.

Mostly, though, in those days, our parents seemed to trust that all kids had some kind of innate survival instinct. Look at the picture of us jumping. I'm the oldest there, and I'm 14. We didn't have helicopter parents, to put it mildly.

And there were no emergency hospital trips on my watch.

Neil had kids with 3 different baby mamas, and we met all of these kids, but only one of the baby mamas. He wasn't much older than Mama Smurf, so he probably knocked the first baby mama up when he was still in high school. I tend to call all the kids of parents' significant others 'stepsiblings', but in most cases, they weren't technically step when our parents weren't married, but only shacking up.

One of these 'stepbrothers' stood on the other side and took that photo of us all jumping. He got it on the first take.

I always think of that as the last day of summer that year, but it was probably the last time I enjoyed summer. It was a cold night, and that's why we're all fully clothed, when normally we wore bathingsuits, but it was also the night before we were to head back to The Bumble's humble abode.

After visiting The Bumble, Beany decided to stay. She wasn't of legal age to choose, but Mama Smurf did not send police cars this time, no insistent angry phonecalls, no curses on her head. It could be that she thought it best to try a different way.

Since Beany was the one who was good with animals, it could be that Mama Smurf was thinking of Beany's future, and that in those areas, The Bumble had more connections than she herself had, and that it was better to get her started young. And since I seemed to be doing ok, maybe it wasn't the end of the world for Beany.

There's something else that niggles at me a bit and maybe I shouldn't say it, but.. Beany was becoming known as something of a Cutie. Many people commented on it. I have sometimes wondered if Mama Smurf had caught Neil looking at her in a way she didn't like, and chose the lesser of evils.

As far as that sort of thing with me went, I never really noticed anything, but I wasn't exactly a beauty. One day, when I was in Junior High, a different school from my siblings, and got out at a different time and had a different lunch hour, I came home and was just in time to see him stroll from one end of a hallway to another completely naked and I saw that he had a very large penis. He didn't look embarrassed, he just kept calmly and unself-consciously walking to the bathroom. I never said anything to my mother, but I thought that what happened happened because he hadn't realized the time - an honest mistake, and besides, nudity shouldn't be shameful.

I suppose now I know enough about men to realize that sometimes they do things accidentally on purpose, and can blame faulty memories without raising any suspicions. But the thing is, I never really got that kind of vibe from him. There were other, concrete reasons I disliked him. It could be that Beany was a different story, though, especially since everyone said she resembled Mama Smurf. Men always want to know that kind of thing, 'what was she like when she was young', and for men, that kind of thing is different from how women think about what men were like young.

Dr Velvet Thong: Let's try not to forget this doesn't prove anything. And also, let me just state for the record that you are seriously sexist, and need to get a handle on that.

Blinky: The next summer I was 15, and I wasn't able to stay the whole summer at the camp. After a couple of weeks I said I needed to leave and talk to a psychologist. The summer I was 16, I stayed even less long, maybe a week, and was too stressed to stay. Not long after I left, (within weeks) Mama Smurf was dead.

Dr Velvet Thong: Just out of curiosity, who took over lifeguarding duties the summer you were 15?

Blinky: My guess is that it would have been Cecil, age 12. Later on, he was officially a lifeguard as a summer job at a swimming pool. Boo was always strong and athletic, too, but I think certain types of pressures and responsibilities were always too stressful for him. But, if there's one main 'lifeguard', that person would be able to count on Boo to help and not flake out in a crisis - he could be directed, or instinctively know what holes to fill.

Dr Velvet Thong: As your eating disorder became unmanageable, and your self-esteem collapsed, it was harder for you to spend time around your mother, and harder to keep up with the responsibilities that you originally didn't seem to struggle with.

Blinky: Jump! was painted in white on the rocks, and while some people might think some smartass was saying 'kill yourself, fucker!', I liked seeing the word. The translation for me was: 'dare to do something that scares you', and we did jump, over and over.

Dr Velvet Thong: You jumped all the way to Australia, eventually. Have you done much swimming here?

Blinky: Not really, unless you count The Swimming Song.

Dr Velvet Thong: If you were in the water now, what kind of swimming do you think you'd do or like to do?

Blinky: I don't really care much for any of the established strokes I learned. I think in water I'd like to do something like freeform dancing. Not really like synchronized swimming, or completely like mermaids with tails/legs together, but maybe a little like jazz and modern, and ballet, but also like how you see people in clouds flying/floating sometimes, I probably will have to try to write it better sometime, it's like twirling in whatever direction, sometimes I've done it in dreams. Smooth, flowing, whirling. Mama Smurf used to look graceful doing the side stroke, and perhaps I did too, it feels nice, but why do you have to limit it to just that amount of gracefulness? Because people will freak out or get embarrassed if you use the water in unestablished or uncool ways to support your weight while you do fun things?

Dr Velvet Thong: Australia vs Canada?

Blinky: I'm glad I'm here as opposed to Canada. The climate agrees with me more, and I think I'm more bonded to the land, the flora and fauna. I've had more experiences when I felt more conscious and awake. There's a lot of diversity in both countries, but I think Australia is closer to compatible with some internal geography.

I've learned more about the history, politics and issues here, and as a result, I think I'm better able to grasp those of Canada and other places in the world. There's something now for the info to anchor to or build from, there's a stronger framework for interpretation.

Nobody in our parents' circles seemed to talk about these things. Politics were intimidating, but not just that, they were sort of dismissed, as if they had no relevance to Real Life or what was Important in life. And I get the point, there's a lot of silliness in politics, and it seems like nothing is really changing, and maybe it's more important to focus on accepting the people in your life, and not delving too deeply into their quirks and issues, which makes that less possible/likely, and I suppose it is a valid choice to avoid negative reinforcement by refusing to dignify it as if it all means anything, but I think it's been helpful to me to learn at least a little more about it, and that it has helped me to understand myself, others and the world perhaps at least a little more.

Dr Velvet Thong: Is it helpful to understand anything?

Blinky: Ha, I guess that's the million dollar question. But there isn't a point in the past I'd like to go back to without the understanding.

I still can't help wishing there was some way I could extract out the most fun and positive memories, and condense it all for future generations, such that it's a feel-good kind of thing rather than just a massive downer-whinefest.

The Bumble almost drowned his father when he was only a kid, even though his father was really good at swimming, and massively strong.

When I was 16, I think The Bumble was drowning, and almost took all of us down with him, but it was a psychic/psychological thing, and everyone's still in a kind of denial about it. My instinct was to play lifeguard, and it might have cost me my life. Just as his flailing wasn't recognized, my efforts weren't either. Maybe to balance the scales, some of this needs to be more visible. He was suffering and scared, and so was I, and so was everyone else, but it still feels to me like I am judged more harshly than anyone else, that I have been shunned and am more of an embarrassment than anyone else.

Dr Velvet Thong: It's extremely difficult for any of us to really see ourselves. And in anyone else's hands, the story would probably come out entirely different.

Blinky: Reading my story, do you think the others would agree I'm so negative it would be better I had never existed? Do you think it would spur people to vote for Voluntary Euthanasia? Capital Punishment For the Destructively Mentally Ill? Could I inspire new laws? Could that be my Purpose in life?

Dr Velvet Thong: I think people might wonder why you haven't killed yourself yet.

Our Rodeo Days

Picture The Bumble: slimmed down, dressed all in black, like Johnny Cash, or Marty Robbins in the Gunfighter Ballads' pose (we had the album with the hot pink background). The Bumble in a black cowboy hat, with a black moustache, a cigarette in one hand, a Rum and Coke in the other. The star of the Apocalypse! Teenage girls scream like the girls at Beatles concerts while his faithful Pale Horse stands by. Mama and Sister Smurf are in the front row, and throw their panties at the stage.

Dr Velvet Thong: You said that The Bumble often mentioned he could be happy with a simple life, just taking out trail rides like he did when he was young.

Blinky: I am not completely sure about the details, but I think he met both Mama Smurf and her sister during this time.

It's possible that part of what he liked about that time was that all his options were still open, and he didn't have the responsibility of kids and a wife. However, his social needs were complex, and after he started making a better salary than he could taking out trail rides, I think he acquired some expensive habits or became accustomed to a certain standard of living and it probably would have been difficult for him to scale back for long.

Dr Velvet Thong: He started smoking when he was 11?

Blinky: It took some time for him to get up to 3 packs a day. The drinking probably started early, too. It just went with the lifestyle. His father died when he was 15, and in many ways, I think this helped him to feel less self-conscious, more powerful, because his father had been overbearing. Now no one could control him or tell him what to do, and he went without much guidance. I think he had learned a certain amount from those in the cowboy community who taught him, but there was never a way in to the world where more advanced teachers lived.

Dr Velvet Thong: There was only so much he could teach you, and he lived in a state of dissatisfaction, feeling that his true potential had never been fulfilled.

Blinky: When he was young and skinny, he did rodeo trick riding, but we didn't see demonstrations of it. He taught us what he knew about Western Equitation and Pleasure riding, how to do games like barrel racing and the pick up race, as well as games more for the rider than the horse - Gymkata.

Dr Velvet Thong: Did you enjoy it, or feel you had a knack for any of it?

Blinky: I think I would have preferred just to ride a horse on my own on a trail somewhere, and the horseshows in particular weren't a lot of fun for me. Maybe it's because it wasn't something I could excel at. I did win a bunch of ribbons, but The Bumble, Beany and even Boo might have got more.

Here's what the general buzz was about me, in Horse People Circles: I had a 'good seat', good posture, I moved with a horse well, and I had incredibly still and gentle 'hands'. I was conscious about the bit in a horse's mouth, and I didn't want to cause undue irritation or pain, but I also had really good balance, which made me good at things like racing with a glass of water in my hand, in events where the one with the most liquid at the end and the best time won.

I guided a horse mainly with leg and foot pressure, leaning my body weight, laying the reins gently on one side or the other of the neck, and voice commands.

When we learned The Pickup Race, The Bumble probably mostly used his phenomenal strength to pull us up. I managed to stand still without flinching as he barrelled down on me, and reach up my hand and try to leap with the momentum in the general right direction, but I'm not sure it could be said I had a knack for it. I managed not to flinch, I ended up in position, and that was just about it. Boo, on the other hand, had an incredible talent, an uncanny ability and timing for it. Once a photographer for a smalltown newspaper (The Tottenham Times) managed to capture his little 9 year old legs in midair, in perfect position to come down right on the horse's back behind The Bumble.

Beany was extremely cute on a horse, partly because she was so small, but also because she looked kind of wild, fierce. It was like this tiny thing on a huge horse, with no fear. Her legs would be flapping, seemingly perpendicular to the ground, trying to get that beast to go as fast as possible. It's no wonder the crowds were taken with her.

Cecil's skill and learning style resembled mine. It's like we both needed to feel sure we understood it all before doing damage or learning bad habits, and I think we were both more self-conscious about learning rules and form, and worried about making mistakes. Beany and Boo were the wild ones, the naturals, the ones who were fun to watch.

Out of all of us, I had the best 'hands'.

In shows it always seemed that it was my job to ride the half-trained horse, to break him in, make sure the horse got experience with a calm rider. I kept trying to ask questions to learn how to get better at finishing the training faster, and I really tried to do what was asked, but it could be that the problem was I wasn't really a natural on a horse, and the horses being trained sensed that I wasn't a proper Authority. It could also be that The Bumble simply didn't really know enough to pass on more to me. I mean, if it seemed I had got stuck, then I guess he could have taken over and finished the job right, but he didn't seem to do this. Also, he was probably hoping that one of us would be like the kids in the Black Beauty books or something, and just have a natural instinct. For a time, he read some of those books to us at bedtime.

The Bumble was into all things Western, and he supported the philosophies (I'm guessing here) behind quarterhorse vs thoroughbred, not just in horses, but people. Thoroughbreds were hothouse horses, delicate, wimpy things that required special conditions to thrive. They were snobs. Give him a good old quarterhorse, any day. And woe be it that any child of his would have a thoroughbred temperament in a perfectly good quarterhouse frame.

But, it seemed to me that quarterhorses were pretty delicate, too. It wasn't just like in cowboy movies where they seem so tolerant of everything and you could just get on and go at a moment's notice. The amounts of grain were important, and you couldn't overfeed. You had to be careful with how much alfalfa was in the hay. You had to make sure the hoofs were properly picked, and you paid attention to hoof health outer and inner, and got them reshod and filed regularly, and before and after riding you had to check all the spots there could be matting, or dried dirt, so sores wouldn't develop under the saddle or girth. Pull off burrs, scrub in circular motions with the curry comb, then use flicking motions with the bigger brush moving from front to back of horse, make sure there are no knots in tail or mane. In winter, keep a coat on showhorses so they don't get that shaggy look, etc. Pick out the front hooves first, then the back, but be careful and always move slowly in back - some horses will kick. Just tap/touch the leg here, and most will automatically lift the hoof to be picked. Some are a bit more stubborn, or seem to enjoy giving you a hard time.

Always walk a horse after exercise to properly cool down, feel the chest to check the temperature. Whether due to incorrect feed, or overwork, horses were always in danger of foundering.

One really 'sturdy' horse even managed to get her neck caught on an old fence, and The Bumble said it was a nightmare where she was standing there with her jugular hanging out and he had to get to a phone (no cell phones in those days!) to call a vet. (She survived, made a full recovery.) All this occurred while I was getting ready for school, and he said there was nothing I could do and at present it was best to keep the horse as calm as possible, without too many humans crowding her, because she was already panicking as it was.

Dr Velvet Thong: When you started training for Quarterama, you were 14 years old. Wasn't Beany living with you at that time?

Blinky: Yes, and she was around 10 when I started training. When it came to swimming, at 10 I trained with 15-16 year olds, but for some reason at 10 she didn't start training in an area she had a more natural aptitude than me.

Dr Velvet Thong: I'm curious as to why, since she was the natural with animals and horses, The Bumble didn't focus on training her for the show. And since he'd never entered Quarterama before, if he was really serious about it, and she was underage or something, and thought she could have a career in the field, why he wouldn't have started investing in her future, rather than put you in the show?

Blinky: Well, maybe his long-range plan was to iron out the bumps with a practice kid. And then the plan was disrupted by all the family tragedies or the failure of his horse breeding business. But at the time, the horse he and I were supposed to ride at Quarterama was the 'fanciest' horse he'd ever had. This horse had the same birthday as me, and so The Bumble might have seen it as a 'sign'.

He didn't stay at our stable with the other horses. He boarded at a place with an arena, which was more convenient. I guess that was an added expense.. and it is just dawning on me that maybe again somehow I turned out to not be worth an investment.

Dr Velvet Thong: And at the same time, you still had horses in your own barn. You helped with feeding, and it was your job to muck stalls because Beany couldn't due to allergies, and The Bumble had arthritis? Although the way you were directed to muck stalls was a tad unusual.

Blinky: He'd say that because of the kind of floors we had in the barn it was healthier for the horses and would prevent thrush in their hooves if we let the straw, shavings and shit pile up. So once a year, it would be my job to clean all that out, and I guess that's partly where I think that many jobs for me ended up being like 'cleaning the Augean stables'. Cutting the lawn on the property, that was my job, too, and all the times we moved, there was so much to move and clean.

After a couple of years, he started the horse business, and his partner took over keeping the barn clean, and didn't let things build up.

Every night after dinner he would drive me to the arena. We'd spend some time checking the horse over, I'd groom him before and after riding, but I'll admit that I think I always had The Bumble check to see if I had tightened the girth the right amount and got the saddle position just so. It's a funny thing, that horses will sometimes hold their breath when you're tightening the straps. I'd ride for an hour or two, and sometimes The Bumble would take a turn for a short while. On weekends we'd go in the daytime, during a time when other horses were in the ring, so the horse would get used to being around groups of people/horses. I was always more comfortable at night, and maybe the horse sensed it, but he didn't ever freak out on weekend sessions.

We often brought a carrot or apple for after the session. (Careful of the fingers!) We had all these apples from the apple tree in the yard. I used to collect the apples in old burlap grain sacks. The first time, I filled one too full, and it was astoundingly heavy, but then I thought it was probably good to keep trying to carry it around, to build strength, like a scene in Rocky. Cue music. And I became pretty strong anyway, from slinging hay and straw bales, bags of feed and shavings.

Horses were comfortable with him, every time I saw, and so I'm still not sure what happened that fateful day.

I certainly don't miss getting the dirt from the arena all up my nose and over my face and teeth. It was really embarrassing. I guess it had something to do with it being cold in the arena, and me and the horse working hard and both of us maybe sweating a little, and I'm not sure if others experienced it, or not. I've never had Horse People Friends. It's just that when I got off the horse and had to go down the horse aisle to the grooming area, I never wanted to run into anyone. How did I wipe it off? With my mittens, left behind when I was riding?

The truck rides home were relaxing. Actually, I know there was a truck, but for some reason I'm thinking we might have been lower down, like in the Chrysler LeBaron work perk car he had. I'm not sure. And while The Bumble liked all the country Greats, on these trips we more often heard the pop/camp versions of country, somewhere in the smokey mountain rain, I love a rainy night, country bumpkin, coward of the county, you're the reason our kids are ugly, that type of thing.

Dr Velvet Thong: What happened the day of the Show?

Blinky: In my second year of high school, I trained every night, even on weekends, for months. On the day of the big show, my father would be riding the horse in a class before mine. He got drunk on the day, not just his usual happy drunk, but extremely drunk, and when in the ring, the horse behaved badly, rearing up, attempting to bite someone, and/or (to hear The Bumble tell it) attempting to drag one woman from her saddle. The horse was pulled/banned from the show.

Dr Velvet Thong: What kind of spin did he put on this?

Blinky: I don't really remember. He didn't apologize, even after all the time and effort I had put in. I think I came away from the whole thing thinking that maybe he had 'saved' me from making a fool of myself, because I wasn't really a very good rider anyway. I thought carefully, and realized that I had probably been trying to train for this show in order to please him, and not because I really wanted to. And so at this point I stopped riding. But, I think it's worth saying that when it came to the training of the horse, it was me who put in the long hours, and the horse might have been more used to me than him. Then again, maybe the fact that the horse misbehaved so badly shows that I had zero talent as a trainer. I guess we'll never know for sure. After that debacle, he sold the horse.

Dr Velvet Thong: Did Beany or Boo ever develop their talents with horses?

Blinky: After Mama Smurf died, the only one of us to continue to be involved with horses or the country world was Beany.

I am not sure to what extent she developed her skills as a rider. When she and The Bumble went out to the country to visit the horses and her dog where they boarded, it was during my housebound years, and the boys didn't go, either.

During the summers she would stay on a farm with a woman who had no children of her own, and she would work, and so she learned a lot about caring for horses, (and she had to do the unglamorous things, allergies or no) but I don't know if she took riding lessons or planned to enter shows as a rider. It's more like she was helping the people who competed in shows, but not necessarily horse and rider shows.

When Beany was in her early 20s, this woman said Beany and Jean- Claude, who had known each other since junior high, and had been a couple since they were 17, could stay in her brother's house. He had died, and it sounds like he had died young. I don't know anything about him, except that he was gay, and it was an arty house, in need of a lot of repairs, and it was located in a part of town where the houses are probably worth a lot. Eventually, she let them buy it, for a fraction of what it was worth, and they fixed it up, and as far as I know, still live there now.

Dr Velvet Thong: There was a period of time in which you said you and Beany were close?

Blinky: On her 16th birthday, she was working at the Royal (Winter Fair), and The Bumble was supposed to pick her up after, but he forgot, because he was drunk. And it was like a tidal wave of associations flooded me, and something clicked and from that time I resolved to do my best to make things up to her.

It took a lot of persistence and thick skin, but eventually it would be that when she got home from school, I'd asked her about her day, and we'd watch Y & R together, and sometimes I made dinner for us, and I'd try to figure out how to address various psychological wounds, and I was sure to compliment her, and try to encourage her to try things she wanted to try, and to try to relieve her stress when she seemed stressed. And I helped her with her homework as best I could, without doing it for her.

During the time I moved away at 21, I wrote her letters with really silly ways of addressing her like: My Dear Little Sweet Pea of a Sister, but er, more elaborate. I mean there's a kind of symmetry or balance, when I used to make up evil nicknames as a child.

And we had this thing that was modelled after something in the SuperFriends. We'd say: Wondertwins power, activate! and put our fists together in the air, and one would say Form of (whatever) and the other would say Shape of (whatever), or maybe it was vice versa.

Dr Velvet Thong: Do you ever miss being around horses or farms?

Blinky: Life ain't nuthin' but a funny, funny riddle. In other words, no.

I was raised such that I caught glimpses of many different communities, but I was also raised a dilettante, and never attained the right cred to really belong in any of them.

Dr Velvet Thong: The Bumble might have been disappointed in all of you for not showing more initiative.

Blinky: The Bumble took me to the arena one day to learn how to rope and tie cows, to add a few more cowboy skills to my repertoire. The anecdote might sound like the whiny excuse of a quitter, but I found the incident extremely depressing and upsetting.

It was a big arena, there were many teenage boys there to learn, and I was the only girl. There were older men watching, and one poor calf, doped up to within an inch of its life. Rope, throw and tie, again and again and again.

I might have been self-conscious, because I was dressed in old clothes, knowing I'd get dirty, and I wasn't wearing my sexy jeans or anything. I wasn't one of the guys, and I wasn't a Hot Chick.

But the way the crowd reacted every time one of the boys roped that poor sacrifical calf.. it saddened me to my bones. I didn't want to be a wimp or embarrass my father, so I took my turn, and I managed to lift the calf in the way I was supposed to, and it wasn't that hard, when you did it the way they said, when you grabbed the right places, but I stepped wrong, and brought it down on my legs. I wasn't hurt or anything, and I felt worse for the calf than for myself. I don't think I even went through with the tying part. I guess I wasn't cut out to be a cowboy/girl.

Musical interlude.. Dr Velvet Thong and Blinky sit in silence while listening to a muzak version of Sweet Virginia.

Six Weddings and Three Funerals

Dr Velvet Thong: Let's talk a bit more about your experiences with celebratory and sad milestones. I want to see if I can get some kind of fix on your attitudes regarding weddings and funerals.

Blinky: I only have a vague memory of the first wedding. A really big one, Mama Smurf's side of family, I was young, it was very religious, with a full service, in a huge church, tons of people, and excruciatingly boring. For me, it was like watching a golf tournament on tv, and since you are familiar with my feelings on golf, then you'll know what I mean.

Dr Velvet Thong: When growing up, your only prerequisite in a mate was that he not play golf?

Blinky: What an amazing memory you have, Dr Velvet Thong.

Dr Velvet Thong: We probably need to dredge up that old nugget about Sister Smurf again, in case the viewing audience doesn't remember.

Your parents married because Mama Smurf was knocked up at 20, with a baby Blinky, and the day of their shotgun wedding, Sister Smurf (16?) told The Bumble he had married the wrong sister, meaning he should have married her instead of Mama Smurf.

Blinky: Most of my memories of Sister Smurf are of her with The Space Cowboy, and I'm not sure when they started dating, or when they married, or when she got over The Bumble. I have memories of him from when I was 5 or so, so I think it's possible he was in the picture then. I guess she married young and has stayed married, and I don't know if it's a stand-by-your-man kind of deal, or a true compatibility, if she had a Catholic fear of hell regarding divorce or a programmed fear of disappointing her Catholic parents in the way Mama Smurf had and this was a way to compete with her, or even if it's something like 'she knows too much' and if there was a divorce they'd have to kill her off, or something on account of all the serious drug business stuff.

Dr Velvet Thong: To the point: on your wedding day, when you think you're taking your vows seriously, and you want to have some semblance of romantic love, your younger sister could be lying in wait to tempt your husband when you start to hit the bumps everyone hits sooner or later. So how do you know when someone means something the way you do? How do you know the Big Romantic Day isn't a lie, right from the start (er, aside from the bun in the oven), one that will come crumbling down on your head years later?

And what's more, when your father tells you that he and Sister Smurf actually fornicated one day, he doesn't seem to think this is any big deal, it just sounds like some fun anecdote in his personal history that he was entitled to, and he seems completely oblivious to any feelings either sister might have had about the whole business, except for any sexual enjoyment they might have got out of it?

Whereas you're a little more aware of the nuances and intensity of female feelings and psychology than The Bumble appeared to be?

And I guess you do sort of see that if your parents 'had to' get married because of you, maybe it would have been best for all concerned if you had never been born?

Blinky: In a nutshell, yes. I feel like I'm belabouring the point, and maybe people are tired of hearing it, but for any newcomers here, it would be a glaring omission to this new updated version of the life story.

And another interesting tidbit is possibly that since I was programmed by The Bumble to be completely open-minded and accepting, I never questioned Sister Smurf or her motives, I always looked for the good in her and was never a snotty teen, even when she herself made personal attacks on me. I suppose most will wonder about the Objectivity of Snotty Teens, but that can't be helped. I can only hope that eventually an overview will emerge.

When Babci seemed to think I was more like Grampa than her, it could be that's how I was coming across. Grampa was a Really Nice Guy, who was endlessly patient, kind, open-minded, but he also commanded a kind of respect that Nice Females in the family didn't. Even Bad Guys, like The Space Cowboy, always seemed to show him respect. Grampa was Nice, but he wasn't Weak in the ways most people assume Nice Guys are.

The way I sound now, my Writing Voice, I think that's maybe a kind of Dissasociative Identity thing, or on the borderline of it, it's a stronger, tougher part of me that emerged to make sure my side of the story was told, rather than accept the 'might is right' version of adults who abused their power to deflect attention away from their questionable deeds and motives, the version that says I was always just as bitchy as the others in my life. And it's gathered together from the parts of the others who are part of me, and my struggle is to find, to identify a kind of caring and positivity that are uniquely my own, without getting drowned or crushed by the harshness of all the other influences.

The Space Cowboy was the only adopted kid in a very religious family. The father was a minister, and all the brothers turned out to be ministers, and somehow he was the Bad Seed or Black Sheep who turned out to be a drug kingpin.

Blinky: I don't remember much about Sister Bumble's second wedding, except that the ceremony itself was another monumental bore, and seemed endless. It's the reception that sticks in my mind. I don't remember the first husband, but she probably married fairly young, and the gossip was that he was pretty awful and good riddance.

The second husband worked for Bell Canada - which reminds me, some day I really have to tell you about The Bumble's million dollar debt to Bell Canada, and that he managed to never have to pay it back. It was a very small reception, only for immediate family, and I don't even really remember members of his family, but there could have been some.

Throughout the reception, the new, better husband seemed to think it was fine wedding reception dinner conversation to comment on the breast development of the teenage guests present, and seemed to act as if it was natural, to stare openly at both, compare, etc, over the dessert course. There were only two of us, and my cousin had signficantly more development. But because he was the groom, maybe, no one wanted to seem judgmental or ruin the night?

I don't remember exactly when it took place, but I think I was either 13 or 14, living with The Bumble.

I guess it also could be that the second husband was so much better than the first that people decided to look on the bright side and overlook a few minor faults.

Dr Velvet Thong: I get it.

Blinky: The Bumble nicknamed them The Bickersons, and I'm not sure they were fighting as much as putting each other down in an attempt to showcase their particular senses of humour. They might both have been insecure people who had experienced trauma and abuse, and who used humour as a coping mechanism, and it could well be that it was a good release or outlet for them both, and that they both consented to it.

I remember his putdowns more than hers, though, especially ones about how awful her body and general appearance were.

My cousin and I had gotten along well in the early years, but when we hit puberty it all changed, and I think it was because we hung with different crowds. The smoker-stoner kids at my school seemed to accept me even though I was a goody-goody who never smoked, drank or did drugs, but she was a city or outer suburb variety of that type, and so was probably cooler than the country cousin/hick. But, I think she was having more extreme sexual experiences from an earlier age, and she might not have been able to relate to me.

Dr Velvet Thong: When did you last have contact with them?

Blinky: When I was in Winnipeg, Sister Bumble began searching the family tree. Since I was otherwise unoccupied, she asked me to do some detective work there for her. I called everyone in the phonebook with our last name (and basically, it's a name like Smith), and I asked the questions she asked me to ask.

And then I was supposed to go to the library and check all the microfeesh, and at the time I was really self-conscious, and I had never learned how to use a library properly, and could only ask for a little help, and I know that even though I was scanning articles, I didn't even know how to ask how to do it right. None of the calls or library visits unearthed anything of note.

But the thing is.. she wanted to know about other possibly more glamorous family members, and she imposed on me to do it, without wanting to know anything about me or what was going on in my life, and I was in a truly awful state. And communication was such that there were just too many barriers to ever get past. I felt embarrassed about the whole thing, and I guess maybe she thought what a useless fuck I was, and sneered about how the little performing monkey was now such a spectacular failure. My kid is better than yours, ha. But the thing is, The Bumble was always disparaging of her and her life, so I get it. And Mother Bumble's attitudes about women in general, yeesh.

I can't know for sure, but I thought the most likely thing was that behind my back, she and her husband were always laughing about what a fuckup or whackjob I was, because that was their general approach to humour and conversation that I had observed over the years, and to me that still doesn't seem much of a stretch. It wasn't much longer before I stopped having any contact.

Again, it's a family communication pattern/problem.

When Mama Smurf died, it might have triggered The Bumble's family's own trauma from when Father Bumble died at age 41. They might all have shut down, or not known how to empathize with us. And you can't expect that women in a family always have to be the ones to nurture or offer emotional support, but it is interesting that the none of the living female members of The Bumble's or Mama Smurf's immediate families had those kinds of instincts. In such cases, it's probably good if some of the men do, to compensate, but that wasn't the case.

Beany and Jean-Claude have never married, but have been together for over 30 years (since high school).

Cecil and his wife at first discussed a big wedding with family in attendance, but didn't get much support or encouragement, and ended up eloping for an all-inclusive package wedding deal in a tropical setting, with no members of either of their families in attendance. That was about 20 years ago now.

Boo waited until he was 41 to get married. He and his 2 friends from high school all got married (for the first time) within the same year. And so we can see that we all had some issues with marriage.

One more thing.. around 1987 or so, I remember Cecil explaining that the reason for getting married was so that one could have affairs.

Blinky: I next went to a wedding when I was 16, during the summer with all the upheavals. Somewhere in amongst all that, I attended the wedding of one of Truck Driver's relatives. I wore the pink prom dress again.

In the receiving line, the bride and groom, only a bit older than us, were standing side by side, and when I went up to shake their hands, the groom french-kissed me, full out. He was really drunk, and didn't even seem to be aware of the occasion. The bride was either looking the other way or too drunk to notice. Or maybe this was just a family tradition, and you're supposed to roll with it, like if you witness people having sex on the dance floor or killing people at a Dothraki wedding.

Dr Velvet Thong: So these scenarios weren't 'romantic' enough for you.

Blinky: Ha. Ah yes, and The Bumble's second wedding (skipping ahead about 5 years). Months before the wedding there was a meltdown in which he went on about how he didn't really want to get married, in front of everyone, and I guess the bride accepted it as pre-wedding jitters, but at the actual wedding, when he said his vows, he was absolutely plastered, slurring his words and one step away from falling down drunk. They came back from a short honeymoon early, and the marriage only lasted a year and a half. So that was another romance-challenged occasion.

Dr Velvet Thong: Perusing her notes from that era. Ah, between the two of them they had amassed quite a collection of deadbeat adult or almost adult children. That probably put quite a strain on the marriage.

I think I need a break from weddings. Let's move on to funerals for a while.

Blinky: I probably should have gone to Babcerooski's funeral, but the adults thought they were doing me a favour by saying I didn't have to go. I already had highly developed language skills, I was a perceptive person, this was the year I wrote the book that my teachers made such a fuss over and everything, and I'm not sure my relatives understood what Babci meant to me, even though I spent so much time with her every time we visited, and when we found out about her death, I was the only one who was crying, except Mama Smurf, and I cried for days, and then off and on, for quite some time it would just keep coming upon me. I didn't get a proper good-bye, and I didn't learn about the naturalness of death. Or, how to communicate about it.

The Bumble took us for a while, a few days, and during that time I went for a haircut/trim, and I asked to have it cut off. It had always been long and the hairdresser asked if I was sure and I was.

The next funeral was Mama Smurf's and I think we've been through that one.

For the next family funerals, the others attended, but I did not. I think they showed up and maybe could say sorry for your loss, or just be there, so they probably passed for normalish, but my absence was probably pretty glaring and unforgiveable or at least incomprehensible, to those who were unaware of my situation. But surely I could have sent a card or something, anything to acknowledge the situation?

I was losing my ability to do the socially correct thing, and maybe I had never really learned well in the first place. It took a long time to lose some things, like having contact with siblings on birthdays, so it might appear like 'if she could do this, why not that', but with funerals, maybe it was too hard to try to appear normal for people I had no other contact with, and who didn't know about my life, and would probably never say another word to me, but would show up for my funeral if my grandfather threw it. Even though I didn't have conscious awareness of taking any stand, it does seem now like it was a bit weird to just go along with social custom, when on the other hand I was getting so many messages that everything I thought I knew was wrong.

I also missed an important one for a member of Gandhi's family, on the side of the family that actually seemed to like me, and while I was there for support and to try to help out while his mother was going through cancer treatments, I didn't go to the funeral, and Don Quixote didn't seem to find that weird or offensive.

I attended an impromptu funeral for Boo's black cat which had been named Kismet and had been hit by a car. At the time, he and Cecil were living together with two sisters. Cecil married the one he was with and Boo and the other eventually broke up when she left him to be a baby mama to a male escort who looked like an underwear model. The girls' mother was a sex worker, so there was some precedence. She travelled across Canada with another sister who had Down's Syndrome. The mother had addiction issues and occasionally needed to ask her daughters for money. Once Cecil and his wife had to put them up in a hotel until they were clear of lice.

Cecil seemed somewhat freaked out about it at the time, but he managed to keep it together.

The two sisters, how did they survive their upbringing? It sounds like they went through a lot, and Cecil's wife was the 'responsible' one who had to be more responsible than her parent, and her sister was the wild, cute one. As awful as it all was, the two of them seemed to have a genuine affection and bond with their mother, and so my guess is that somehow she managed to pass on that their lives were important to her and she valued them. She taught them to value family, children, home. Another thing they might have had on their side was society's support - they both fit a certain ideal: they were both petite, smart, photogenic brunettes, the kind of girl most guys see as the 'ideal' wife or girlfriend, they both had great features and hair, and although one struggled with an unusual allergic skin condition, most of the time she had really good skin, much more 'normal' than ours.

Cecil and Cecilia I suppose found common ground in being the responsible, successful siblings who were tough enough to overcome shitty backgrounds/upbringing and trauma.

Mother Bumble's sister the Bathing Beauty who got her photo in the newspaper posing in a bathingsuit became an alcoholic and a sex worker and moved to Vancouver and I am not sure if she was ever heard from again. And it is only now hitting me that might have something to do with Mother Bumble becoming so upset when I said I was going to move to Vancouver at 21. I get that it was understandable to shun her sister if she chased The Bumble around trying to grab his thing when he was young, but when Father Bumble died, I think Mother Bumble also treated The Bumble like her boyfriend/a replacement. Sibling rivalry, incest, sisters who both had romantic/sexual interest in The Bumble? Is this why it all seemed so 'normal' to him, is that why he was drawn to Mama and Sister Smurf and their unconscious little family feud?

The sister with Down Syndrome told me some stories which sounded like pretty awful sexual abuse/exploitation, and I asked a few questions, but I did realize that as a family, they'd been dealing with some things a very long time, and the sad truth was that sometimes there just aren't resources available for disabilities and addiction issues. So one of the many things Cecil and his wife perhaps had in common was a sibling with a disability for which there wasn't much help.

They eventually tried to set the mother and sister with DS up in a place near them, and I don't know how that went. I was going to donate furniture when leaving for Australia, but then I couldn't because the split with Gandhi left me with no resources or funds or divorce settlement, and although I realize Gandhi thought differently, because he would have given his new girlfriend anything she needed and he did actually give her some of our furniture, for her new apartment, when she left her husband, he expected Don to do the same for me, but Don was worried about internet scammers and gold diggers as most people in their right minds would be, and so I was in a situation where my ex was in a giving-everything-to-the-new-mate phase, and I had no savings, no assets, nothing, at the end of a 7 year relationship.

And no, I don't feel guilty about asking Gandhi for a couple of months rent, even if he had to borrow the money from his parents. It was my intent to never bother him again if I could get settled, and I never have. And still for years I had so many lingering guilts about all the money I owed various people and now I say fuck them all. (But if I had ever written a successful book that made money, like 50 Shades of Something, I probably still would eventually have sent everybody cheques.)

When Rooster died, I think I should have done more than phone Beany and say sorry, and stay in bed all day, but at the time, I was housebound. She had mentioned getting him stuffed before, and I thought about offering to pay even if I had to ask Gandhi for the cash if she didn't have the money, but I was awkward in the moment and I don't think I did offer.

Rooster has to be part of the story; he's a legend. With the parade of pets over the years, it's pretty hard to stand out, but Rooster really had Personality, and Heart. He was nervous, and one time during one of The Bumble's birthday parties he went into a massive moult and lost most of his hair due to stress, and also, my sister lived near a streetcar line and sometimes he'd have seizures when the cars went by. But, at the same time, he managed to retain an amazing air of Dignity, and I do believe that if Beany had given him a Kill command, he would have obeyed in a heartbeat. He was probably the most sentient dog we'd had. Also, we all suspected he was gay.

Dr Velvet Thong: Rooster, after Rooster Cogburn?

Blinky: nodding After Mama Smurf died, The Bumble brought Beany two male dogs from one litter, and he named them Rooster and Jeremiah. Jeremiah was the 'pretty one', and for a long time, everyone favoured him, but when Beany had to give up her dogs so we could live in The Brady Bunch situation in The Beaches, it was easier to find a permanent home for the 'prettier' dog, and Rooster ended up in a place where Beany worked summers, and in the end she got him back. That was a happy day in the history of the family! It needs to be noted down. The Bumble had a pattern of buying two dogs at one time, and his favourite would be the least pretty, or the least popular of the two.

Rooster had a long life, a good life.

I know I won't have a funeral, so I have written something up for Don Quixote to do with my cremated remains, hopefully such that he has a chance to unconsciously say good-bye if consciously he doesn't really see the need - a little mission for him, a road trip, to spread the ashes. If he needs his sister and her husband there for support, it's fine, but otherwise, I don't really know anyone in Australia who would attend. And because Don Quixote usually seems inhibited and nervous in his sister's and her husband's presence, too nervous to be himself and maybe even to get his bearings, I would actually prefer that they not be there. Yes, the more I think about it, the more it seems it would defeat the purpose of a thoughtful good-bye. I think he would be so preoccupied with what they thought he wouldn't really be able to think about the kinds of things I have mentioned about saying good-bye to me.

Dr Velvet Thong: Once you're gone, it's out of your hands.

Blinky: I accept that.

While I have lived in Australia, it goes without saying that I haven't attended any funerals in Canada. My last two original grandparents have died, and one stepgrandmother, my father and a 'cousin', and maybe also that cousin's mother. I feel like I'm forgetting someone. Usually, the way it works is that Cecil sends me a brief 2 line message a bit after the funeral has taken place, but in the case of The Bumble, Cecil didn't send anything, and instead Boo sent me a message within half a day of the death. They weren't going to have an official funeral, but sort of scattered things with different members doing something together. I don't know if all his old friends and acquaintances were notified. It was difficult to get much info at all, and I don't know if it was because of weirdness about death in the family, or if there was some 'conspiracy' against me in particular, or what.

Watching Six Feet Under sort of gave me more of an overview about funerals and issues, but I'm not sure they covered anything exactly like my family situation.

Dr Velvet Thong: Back to weddings for a moment?

Blinky: I also went to Gandhi's sister's wedding in Timmins, Ontario. I had black Morticia hair, wore a red flower dress with a black Le Chateau goth blazer over it, cool black boots, a black velvet neckband, red lipstick and black fingernails.

His mother had hated Gandhi's punk phase, and her first impression of me when she originally met me at Easter was not a good one. It lingered.

She didn't want me in any of the wedding photos, and during the ceremony, I had to sit at the very back of the church. I didn't make any unpleasant scenes, and was self-conscious about photos anyway, so it was actually a good thing for me, but the underlying reason for it wasn't so flattering. I realize she hoped the relationship wouldn't last, even though Gandhi was 25 and I was the first gf he'd ever brought home to meet them.

While we were at the reception, someone discovered that some wedding presents and money left in his sister's room at the house had been stolen, and I realized that the mother and some others there thought it had something to do with me. It's not really very much fun when you're the one people suspect first.

It does make sense that a family might not want photos of someone who was only in the picture a short time, but his other sister had a date (someone she did not go on to marry, or even stay with for very long after the wedding) who wasn't banned from the pictures. But he looked respectable, like a Ken doll, the football hero version.

And I guess it is true that my intentions weren't the greatest. I tried not to do any harm, but underneath everything, I wanted to go on a suicide holiday. That is what I really wanted out of a relationship, and so while maybe she couldn't exactly put her finger on things, in a way, she was right, I wasn't the right person for her son or her family. The survival instinct says 'protect the family from the stranger', not 'maybe we can help her'. (Good old pesky stigma again?)

At another family wedding (Gandhi's family), I wore a long white fringe gogo vest, with a red velvet miniskirt, and kneehigh black leather laceup boots. Gandhi got drunk too fast, and after the dinner we had energetic sex in the hotel room and then he passed out and couldn't make it to the reception, but I went, because I wanted to dance, and his mother told me that she wished her son had done better (than me). This time, I'd had a short blond buzzcut. Gandhi was an Annie Lennox fan, but there was also this really pretty, extremely cool girl with short blond hair he'd known years previously (I met her once at The Loft apartment Gandhi and Vlad shared) and I think he kind of worshipped her from afar, and instead of approaching her, he made a big cut over his heart, that resulted in a big permanent scar that he never wanted to talk about, and then he had it covered with a bat tattoo. All of this was before we got together.

Dr Velvet Thong: And your failed engagement to Gandhi?

Blinky: When Gandhi asked me to marry him, it was a few months after his sister's wedding. He didn't think it over, he just blurted it out in the moment one day, and I think he probably regretted it right after, even though I do believe he truly cared about me, and that he would have gone through with it. And the mistake snowballed, deer in the headlights style because I could see my answer would affect the outcome of our relationship, and I gave just as much thought to my response as he did to his question. And then there was the 'obligation' of telling everyone. For me, it was never the excitment of a bride, it was always the duty or the 'right thing', it was hold your breath and get it over with, try to sound upbeat. We received congrats cards from his side, but I honestly thought I'd be dead before I'd actually have to deal with a wedding.

We never discussed any details, and never made any concrete plans, and over time, it was just dropped. Once his mother asked if I wanted help planning things and I said no. I decided it was up to him to let his family know we weren't going to go through with it. We did talk about it, and I did admit I didn't really want to get married, and over time I became more and more sure about it, and more articulate.

Dr Velvet Thong: You've had other marriage proposals?

Blinky: Yes, but just about as much thought went into them.

Truck Driver bought me a ring worth a few hundred dollars when I was 16, and I wore it for a short time, something like a week to 3 weeks or so, and showed everyone at school, and then he had a car accident, he rolled his car, and needed some cash and I offered the ring back. The whole thing was unreal, and I wasn't honestly thinking seriously about marriage. The ring was pretty, and I think I wore it for a short time because I didn't see any way out, and I didn't think anyone else would ever love me. I was relieved to give it back.

A little more thought went into Don Quixote's proposal, but it was as devoid of any romance as it is possible to be.

When he met me, he exclaimed that it was a good thing I wasn't more beautiful, because if I had been, he probably would have started begging me to marry him the moment I stepped off the plane. Once we had eliminated the romantic angle, we eventually moved on to the practical one.

He was very matter-of-fact about these kinds of things. He liked the idea of making a political statement regarding the fascist state of the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs. (I am not making it up, it was actually called that back then.) They deserved to have the mentally ill stick it to them! It looks a lot cooler to me now, but back then, it was really hard for me to stop feeling so guilty. I didn't want Don Quixote to get stuck with me. I didn't think he knew what he was getting into, and although at the time his public writing on the subject of romance of any kind was quite cynical, I knew he was a closet Romantic, and I didn't want to destroy that.

Dr Velvet Thong: Do you think people assume you just don't listen when he tells you what you mean to him? That for some reason, you just can't hear it?

Blinky: Yes. But there's also so much pressure to provide romantic myths for people. If everyone seems to think I should be grateful for something a person in my situation doesn't really deserve, the focus is again on my negativity, and not that before I can be ready for something like commitment, some basic issues in my life have to be solved. But it's like a person in my situation doesn't have a right to have personal ideals and limits.

About a month before I moved to Australia, one of The Bumble's exes was diagnosed with a kind of cancer that acted quickly. Gandhi told me about it on the phone, but didn't have many details. At the time, I was in extreme distress regarding my living situation, trying to apply for disability without help, and my eating disorder was the most chaotic ever.

Family communication was such that they waited for me to contact them, and I couldn't contact them because (I have only recently understood another layer of this and how it applies to other details) of the whole situation with The Bumble and his contempt. When he had fantasies he'd killed me, when he looked at me with disgust, when he had me taken away to a psych ward he hadn't researched, I was living like a lump in his house. In 2000, I was sitting in my apartment, paralyzed by my eating disorder, applying for disability was more than I could manage, and I think it makes sense that unconsciously, I thought if I called anyone in the family at that time, I risked that look of contempt and disgust, especially since no one seemed to challenge The Bumble over time, and because Gandhi had already been giving me looks of contempt and disgust. Any 'help' would come with strings, but more than that, the offers of help were not clear, they weren't directly offered, they were offered secondhand, by someone not great at communicating, and I knew they didn't know what they'd be getting themselves into. I am not sure how well I've connected the dots for everyone, but I think I'm understanding better where my particular suicidalness comes from, and that avoiding some kinds of situations is like a PTSD reaction.

Also, like with everything else, there was a consistency issue. Once Significant Others were out of The Bumble's life, we rarely if ever had contact again. Most of them were probably glad to see us go, and had never been invested in getting to know us as people.

After Mama Smurf's funeral, I've never seen Neil again. I don't know if any of the others have.

The one with terminal cancer was 'nice', but I was at a place in my life where nice wasn't enough. The two of them had provided a kind of family stability for a while, with everyone invited to Sunday dinners, and everyone's birthday celebrated, but eventually I couldn't handle the underlying patterns, the reinforcement of her meekness and resentment, but unwillingness to try to change. She was reinforcing sexist and misogynistic attitudes in her kids, and she didn't stand up for her kids when The Bumble was in the wrong or behaving badly. That whole scene, with the 11 cats, and dogs in big cages in the livingroom, and everyone deferring to The Bumble, and me expected every time to offer to help with the dinner and the cleanup, it just didn't seem healthy.

But she got me a microwave, a small one of hers I guess she wasn't using, that was in storage, and the use of table and chair set, and found an old sewing machine for me. I still have a box of pins, thread-ripper and measuring tape in an old Sucrets container that she gave me. On the surface, it probably seems cold that I didn't go to see her before she died, or to a funeral if there was one, but there wasn't enough family communication or support.

I think it's possible that everyone absorbed The Bumble's attitudes about me not showing up, and that this might have something to do with how they've handled telling me about illnesses and deaths over the years, but I can't be sure. And if it was at least something to do with this, The Bumble was still framing everyone's ideas about me, and he didn't understand me, and he was still pretty immature. Like: 'we have to send your stepbrother to a halfway house because he's bad and needs straightening out', not 'social workers fear for his safety and development in his home environment.'

But this is just speculation, and it could still be something like this without being related to this particular incident/death.

A Wedding and Four Beagles

Blinky: There are a couple of incidents I want to describe, but I don't know yet where or if they will fit in the overall narrative.

Dr Velvet Thong: No problem.

Blinky: When The Bumble told me the story of when he went to meet the well-known Canadian artist who married his dog, it was this kind of thing that seemed to expand the world for me, to hint at what there might be besides the usual incest, abuse and country song themes.

Dr Velvet Thong: Just be sure not to name names.

Blinky: The Bumble had been instrumental in the printing success of a book of this artist's work. He had been very involved with the project, and was particularly responsible for making sure the colours rendered accurately, because colour was especially important to his work. The book won some awards, so I was proud of The Bumble for this artistic success - he was an interesting individual, he had his rodeo and trail riding careers, he'd been a 'cowboy', he'd taught judo, he'd played on a team that had won a North American rugger championship, he'd worked his way up from sweeping floors to having a much more important role in the company, and, he had some artistic sensibility that maybe could have been developed further.

Dr Velvet Thong: I would tend to agree that he sounds like an unusual individual.

Blinky: When he met the artist, I think he might have been somewhat startled by what he saw at his home, and I've never been quite sure if 'married his dog' was a euphemism for bestiality, or if there actually was some kind of ritualistic ceremony, or both.

Dr Velvet Thong: I find myself imagining a beagle in a white dress and veil, although I don't suppose you know what type of dog it was. Maybe they slept in the same bed, ate dinner together at the table, were true companions?

Blinky: Would any of those things really be so crazy? When I mentioned my father and talking philosophy, maybe we didn't really talk about philosophy so much as he made a lot of statements and told a lot of stories that caused me to think about what was right, wrong, weird, and why.

I wanted to talk about The Bumble and going hunting with him.

The Bumble always had knives. Not really small Swiss Army knives.. they were usually I guess really sturdy jack-knife types? He always carried one with him, even when he no longer hunted. When he showed them to me, I always got the sense they were really important to him and that they were prized possessions.

I can't remember when he stopped hunting, or why (except that there is a vague legend that Mama Smurf took him to see the movie Bambi and then made that Beany's middle name, and after that, he gave up hunting) or how long we had a gun in the house somewhere. I remember collecting the colourful shells in the snow after the men were done for the day. I think I was always trying to figure out if there was some creative project they could be used for, because I liked the colours. I don't think I ever worked it out.

I'm not sure how many of us went along. I'm not sure if Beany ever came. I don't know if my brothers were taught how to fire a gun. I know I wasn't.

It was boring, and it seemed like the day was very long. I don't know how long the sessions actually were. We were supposed to play in the woods away from a designated hunting area, and the adults would come back later. I always had to pee in the snow at a certain point, and dreaded that point, and inevitably my feet got cold and I could not warm them until we went back to the clubhouse for hot chocolate. The hot chocolate was the highlight of the day for me. Otherwise, it was as unendurable as going to church. I never caught the excitement of the hunt, although I probably must have absorbed some of it unconsciously.

We didn't even get to play with the dogs, because they were engaged with hunting. From what I remember, beagles are cute and have nice temperaments. The Bumble owned and bred some prize-winning beagles. At the last place we lived together as a family with Mama Smurf, he built a kennel out back for them. It never really smelled very good.

Dr Velvet Thong: I'm not finding this particular anecdote all that entertaining. Are we almost through?

Blinky: I had a variety of experiences in childhood, and unfortunately, a lot of my memories of those experiences seem to suggest that most of the time I was enduring something I didn't particularly like, even if it added some kind of 'enrichment' and variety to my overall experience. I'm not sure if what I'm getting at is that I didn't know how to seek out activities I actually liked. Originally I somehow wanted to have some reason to talk about the horror of the skinned jackrabbits in the basement.

It's a memory that sticks out. It was very vivid, and it did shock me. When told they were hunting for rabbits, I had pictured cute little fluffy things, but I stumbled unexpectedly into something that was like a horror movie come to life. They were hanging up in the basement like victims of a serial killer, all in a row, without skin, bloody meat in the shape of some strange demon animal that bore no resemblance to rabbits. They were so long compared to a compact rabbit in normal repose. And so muscular. The smell was pungent, and I guess this is partly how I came to understand the definition of 'gamey'. I don't think all the blood had been cleaned up, and there might also have been some in containers of some kind, but I'm not sure. The whole experience made me feel sick. I'm not sure how old I was, but probably 9 or less.

I tried to please my parents in other ways. Why did I not want to become a cool chick who can handle guns and hunt? Why did I become the only vegetarian in the family? I don't think it's because I was so horrified. I think it might partly have been that I wanted to take some kind of big leap away from my background. If the experience had been handled by others who were better at teaching or guiding, who knows? My comments are prejudiced, and maybe I'm not expressing it well, and maybe I was unconsciously trying to express that I wanted life to be different. I didn't want to endure activities I didn't like and wasn't engaged in, and too much of my childhood seemed to be about enduring activities I didn't enjoy.

I don't remember very often enjoying 'playing with the other kids' when visiting people. It's like none of the adults had very interesting conversations, drunk it really didn't improve, and somehow we, the children were just reflections of our boring parents whose conversation skills sucked and whose idea of a good time fit into such a narrow range.

How much of a hardship is it for most fathers to go without alcohol during weekend visitation with their kids, and how many actually do? I find it difficult to believe The Bumble could make it through many of them without alcohol, but I only have one specific memory at the adult luxury apartment when he said it was fine to taste his drink, and I thought it would be good because it had Coke in it, but it was really awful, awful enough that I didn't want more, and wasn't curious or awake enough yet to endure it so as to aim for special drunken effects - or I was still ruled by authority and rules enough that I didn't think of drinking more as a kid's activity. However, since The Bumble was relaxed and generally enjoying himself drunk, it could very well be that how he was drunk affected how I perceived him, and affected why I liked him and wanted to be around him or thought he was fun, and this also might have had an effect on the development of my own coping patterns/eating disorder/addictive tendencies.

There are these internet photos of toddlers smoking cigarettes or whatever, and generally an uproar in response, but I honestly think that my parents and most of their crowd kind of encouraged us to try things, and would have found it cute or humorous if one of us liked smoking or something. There was one photo of me when around 3 when I think I was walking around with an unlit cigarette in my hand. This is separate from a later incident in which I put one in my mouth and found it really really gross. And then the trauma of Boo inhaling the contents of an ashtray, smeared all over his face, stuck up his nose, and in his throat, tears running down, black runny ashes mixed with snot, with him choking and screaming in pain - it was completely horrifying.

Our parents, all their Significant Others and friends, and most of our relatives (except Babci and Grampa, and Babci used to smoke, but quit) were smokers. Everywhere we went, visited, socialized, there was no escaping the massive, dense cloud of cigarette smoke. Cecil, Beany, Boo and I are all binge drinkers (Beany's the one least likely to drink very often, but when she does, she also overdoes it), binge eaters to varying degrees, but none of us smoke, and this seems unusual, considering our background.

The Dude, The Dud, and The Mountain of Kitty Litter

Blinky: Gandhi was living in a cool basement apartment when we started seeing each other. It was an artist's house, with a cool garden that had an odd assortment of objects like old bicycles and mannequins. I'm sure most people know the kind of thing I mean.

Gandhi was very good-looking, had long hair, tattoos, pierced ears, and wore a trenchcoat. He was cool, had a massive vinyl record collection, was quiet, and unassuming. He eventually cut his hair and started to wear more conventional clothes. He was good enough at sports that more aggressive males tended to respect him. He wasn't as extroverted as Grampa Smurf, but people tended to like him and feel comfortable around him, perhaps in similar ways. People liked him, but he didn't know how to form a social network. He wasn't able to take initiative, and so while people liked him, they might have waited for him to choose them, and thought he wasn't interested when he didn't.

It does seem that most people operate from a place of insecurity, and that when they feel 'important', they might find it easier to trust potential significant others. Even when I was with Gandhi, one of the ways I 'explained' the relationship to myself was that it was difficult to leave, and he seemed to think he would die without me. But once we had moved in together, it became very difficult for me to have independence again - I totally messed that up. It's difficult to totally blame myself, because I can see that he gave me a kind of constant support and feedback that was much more positive than anything I had ever had, aside from the feedback I used to get for doing well in school. I had never had the kind of emotional/psychological/personal feedback that he gave me. I was used to emotionally abrasive/abusive males. But he could not really see or understand my isolation and lack of network, and so neither of us could understand how hard it was for me to leave, even when it would have been for the best. And would it have been for the 'best'? Even that is complicated. Perhaps even though the relationship was not ultimately 'right', it was a better situation than being on my own, becoming homeless, having no support, and considering his circumstances at the time, it might also have been better for him, at least for a time.

He used the furnace room in his apartment as his cat's bathroom and as a general storage area. There was a mountain of kitty litter. If there was originally a litter box, it was buried somewhere under the mountain. In 4 years, he hadn't changed or scooped the litter. He just kept adding fresh bags onto the existing mound. When the apartment flooded, all of his possessions in storage, as well as his extensive vinyl record collection which was stacked around the apartment on the floor, were mixed with the cat litter. Some were probably 'important' childhood objects like baseball gloves, but admittedly, probably most of it was junk. His parents liked to give their kids tons of presents for chrismukkah and birthdays, and I think they all liked seeing the quantity of presents, and the fun of unwrapping them all.

Later, when Gandhi moved out of our apartment, I was left to sort through all the crap we had accumulated through the years. It was one of those compromises made in the name of the relationship. I didn't like collecting stuff, but could see how having things like rollerblades or baseball equipment might provide more activity options. Still, there was an unbelievable amount of crap he left for me to deal with. There had been a lot to deal with before moving in together, too.

Aside from all the positive affirmations and reassurances of love, he didn't speak much, and it was only later that I clearly understood he had wanted an arrangement in which we were both respectfully discreet in our dealings with others. I had told him I didn't want that kind of thing from the start, in great detail, and that part of it was because of the nature of my situation - If we were going to break up, it was better I had a heads up, in advance.

When still in the early years, before disability had been cut off, he could have spoken up and tried to help me move out, but I think it was like the mountain of cat litter. When after a work party I hadn't attended I found a white jean shirt, the shirt he wore, covered with makeup on the inside, and I calmly asked him about it, he became offended, angry, and threw the shirt in the garbage, end of discussion.. surely I knew then he never intended to talk about things, and I knew the deal I had made. To be with someone who was kind on a daily basis, who complimented me on a daily basis, I chose a short-term fix, as there was clearly no long-term security here. And was it the wrong choice? I had the experience of being with someone unusual who was very kind, and who relieved my anxiety to an extent that no one else ever had or did again. I had years of that experience.

But the mountain of cat litter, the willingness to euthanize his cat for no real reason, and how all his childhood possessions and his record collection were damaged by the combination flood mixing with that 4 year mountain of cat litter in his basement apartment that he already knew was prone to flooding.. he was not someone who could plan ahead, or tackle problems any better than I could.

I was shocked when I realized he thought he'd have to euthanize his cat so we could move in together. I would never want anyone to do that to be with me. I made sure to find a place that accepted cats. We had a litter box there, and we took turns cleaning it, or maybe I did it more often, who knows.

Oh, also there was something I wanted to mention in relation to the Sex Apartment. There was an aura or ambiance of sex there, there were 'art nudes' on the walls, all those magazines, tons of books about sex, etc, and I think that when I met Gandhi, although he was living in a 'cool' basement apartment, in an artist's house, when we combined our incomes, I wanted to live in an 'adult luxury apartment' quite likely because that kind of place reminded me of the times when I visited my father there. I maybe had some kind of unconscious idea it would be stimulating, and help me to begin to explore more sexually, not get trapped in the same old 'blind sex', and to move beyond the kind of 'hugging' relationship we had. And of course now I see how 'soulless' those luxury apartments are, all the same, etc, and I should have recognized how cool Gandhi's place was.. but I did recognize it at the time, and I guess it was kind of difficult to get past that it hadn't been cleaned in the 4 years he'd lived there, and the first night I slept in his bed which was a mattress on the floor, some massive earwig type bug crawled out of my underwear when I went to the toilet. I just didn't really want to set anything down anywhere, and of course there was also the furnace room with the mountain of kitty litter. The place I lived wasn't as cool, but it was on Love St, and some parts of my apartment were at least kinda cool. [Also.. I should mention that the luxury apartment we moved into had tanning beds, a spa with saunas, a swimming pool, and other things like a big movie room you could book for free for parties/guests. They even had a convenience store on site, tennis courts, probably various other things. And, they let us have a cat. (I found this place.) I was trying to think of how to deal with my issues, and I thought the tanning beds/spa might be good. It sounds really expensive, but my half of the rent (I paid a full half) was within the budget allowed for disability (I can't remember what it was.. on Love St, I think I paid $500/month or a little more, and for this place my half might have been $400-450 or so). The amount I received went down a little when I moved in with Gandhi, but in the first half a year we were able to save enough for the trip to New Orleans, plus pay his parents back for the last month's rent they lent us so we could get the place. Gandhi was already about $1000 in debt when I met him, a single guy with a low rent, no vehicle and no dependents - it's just that he smoked weed every night, and pretty much ate mostly convenience store food and McDonald's. Together, we grocery shopped (at Loblaws Superstores and offshoots), and in many ways with our combined income we were still able to be 'extravagant' and to eat a lot of junk food.

There was a lot more space than in either of our apartments. One side of the apartment was floor-to-ceiling windows, with large blinds, and there was a 'sunroom'. There was temperature control cool/warm, washer and dryer in the apartment itself, and all kitchen appliances. There was a full separate bedroom. But living there, I never felt comfortable having anyone over; I was still embarrassed and uncomfortable in my own skin, and eventually, I even 'ruined' the look of the apartment by putting weird, tacky, not cool, posters I made all over it.. at a certain point, something just burst through, and even though it went against the simple luxury look, I just couldn't resist making a mess. Maybe I was making an unconscious statement. It wasn't a 'perfect' apartment.. one of the reasons we could afford it was that maybe the carpet wasn't perfect.. not exactly horrifying, but for those who are perfectionists, if you're going to live somewhere like this, maybe you 'need' it all perfect. Also, the day we moved in, the fridge wasn't really clean, but it was basically a 'good' fridge, without damage, modern, etc, and so I went about 're- cleaning' the whole place, to make sure. But with planning and decorating, it could have worked, and it could have been possible to 'entertain' guests, keep a year-round suntan (as a possible solution for my skin condition) or use the spa (I think it was even possible to book appointments with a dermatologist there), and swim in a big pool with an overhead skylight ceiling - and most of the time no one was even in the pool. I only remember using it once, at night, looking up at the ceiling. Ah, there was an outdoor pool, too. But I couldn't make it work there.

A person on disability is allowed to live somewhere like that? Imagine the uproar. And maybe I felt guilty about it, and maybe that guilt prevented me from really enjoying things, but I did the math and there was nothing in the rules that said you had to live in a dump. And if I helped us to 'focus', we could manage things like paying off debts and saving for trips. Maybe most people 'accept their lot' and what people think and when they choose housing, if they have a choice, they pick something befitting their low status. I was making an effort to address some of my issues (eg, with skin), which was a sign of 'mental health'. ]

Why did we move after a year there? I wasn't really using the facilities (before the trip to New Orleans, we both did use the tanning beds for a while), and I wasn't going out. It was just past the edge of the city where transit is easily accessible. I wanted to break up, and what made sense was to try to find an apartment he could afford on his own. The next place wasn't as nice, but it was closer to the city centre, Gandhi started biking to work. It was the 'cleanest' place for the price range, and his cat was accepted.

Gandhi was diagnosed in his teens with Type 1 Diabetes. He was very thin at the time (5'9", 105 lbs), and he struggled most of his life to put on weight. He had to inject insulin every day of his life, and would tend to have small bruises or marks at injection sites. At times, he really didn't want to inject even one more time, but he'd do it. When we started seeing each other, he weighed more, but was still under 130 and was self-conscious about it. Living with me, he got up to 146 lbs, and was really proud of that. He would call himself Mr 146 Pounds!

There wasn't much he liked to eat or that he would eat. He ate McDonald's quarter pounders with no cheese, no condiments, no nothing, and large fries every day. He drank 2 l or more of Diet Coke per day. He'd eat chips and chocolate bars at night, and try to dose himself with insulin to keep his blood sugar levels as regular as possible. Sometimes he'd fry a massive amount of pasta in butter, and salt it heavily, until it was 'crispy', and he'd eat meats like 'sausage strips', fried in the same pan.

I tried various things out, and was able to get him to eat grilled boneless chicken breasts, stirfried broccoli, granny apples, low sugar/no sugar added peanut butter, whole grain cereal, and maybe a few other things, on a regular basis.

In restaurants, he'd always order steak or grilled chicken, with fries. He couldn't stand any kind of sauce on anything, although he liked maple syrup on pancakes.

It seemed 'normal' to me, because I had so many issues with food, and maybe he accepted my disordered eating because people usually hassled him about his food choices. Objectively speaking, bulimia is quite disgusting. Not everyone can put up with it, but when it comes to those who can, maybe it has something to do with 'hoarding' tendencies - some of what goes along with that can be kind of gross as well.

I have a lot of psychological baggage, and I tend to find those who hoard things and don't stay on top of housework. So I guess if I find it difficult to be in messy, cluttered, disorganized places, I can understand that most people wouldn't want to be around the kind of psychological mess associated with me. My psychological 'mountain' is less appealing than the physical mountain that a hoarder accumulates. I have learned to accept a certain amount of chaos in my surroundings when living with someone, but it is helpful to have my own room. Still, I think disorganized surroundings affect my experience of life. If there's more than I can deal with, I feel like I can never get my head above water.

The Bumble let a combination of straw, shavings and horseshit pile up in the stalls in the barn. He would say that the floors in our barn weren't great for the horses' hooves, that they might get thrush, and that was his reason for allowing the buildup. Once a year, I would have to shovel it all out. It would take a weekend, working about 8 hours a day, I think, and I didn't slack off. I got good with a pitchfork. I'd fill a wheelbarrow, wheel it outside and dump in the field where The Bumble had said to put it, then return and keep going. I kept moving at a brisk pace. The smell was really bad, and there were some really scary things in there. Maybe it was even like a horror movie, but I was tough in those days. I only did it for two years of the three we lived there. The third year he had the horse business, and his partner outlawed the practice of allowing the buildup.

As I've said before, the lawn on the farm took more than 5 hours to cut with a push mower. In those days, I admit I waited to be told to do it, but considering the state of most of the properties he had lived in his life, I think The Bumble was actually suited more to apartment living, where no landscaping duties were involved. He tended to have the least well-kept place in any neighbourhood. Me, Boo, Beany and Cecil would have actually done more if he had given us instruction, but part of the problem was that he didn't really think about these things. He put them out of his mind.

In his rodeo days, I think The Bumble was quite the dude, and he recognized this in Gandhi and maybe felt like he was a kindred spirit.

Don Quixote also seems to hoard stuff. His house has 4 levels, 3 bedrooms, an office, a workroom, laundry, a large open area livingroom/ diningroom/kitchen area, and there's a garage. But somehow there's not enough room for all his stuff, even if you factor in that there's a ton he crams under the house as well. The extra bedroom was too stuffed to actually have guests in it, the storage closet/linen closet was too scary for either of us to deal with, and although I could manage to keep my own bedroom and the bathrooms neat, and the main living area somewhat neat but not anally so, the rest of the house and property would just keep spilling out everywhere in a horrifying manner (well, horrifying to me). I didn't think I could ever deal with it again, after the first time I tackled it. It was worse this time. 3 months of working on it all day, cleaning, sorting, figuring out how to recycle, painting things, with both of us working on it, were not enough to get the job done. I had hoped I could do it, and at the time of writing it's still up in the air, but I've starting drinking alcohol and drinking coffee again and I feel really sick and I just don't know if I can do it. The thing is, without me guiding the process, taking a kind of responsibility for it, it always grinds to a halt.

It's not just about the hoarding, all houses and properties require upkeep and maintenance and updates, and of course I live here so I contributed to the problem, but I'm basically a neat person who doesn't like clutter.

I've talked about all the family moves before, and how that contributed to me pruning down my collecton of stuff. I remember now that at age 21, when The Bumble moved to Winnipeg, me and Cecil were left sorting a lot of the family stuff and figuring out what to do with it, but also that Sister Bumble agreed to keep some stuff in her garage for a while. I always felt guilty about it, because I had no contact with her and she was eventually forced to get rid of my stuff, I think a big stuffed dog and I am not sure what else, but I had no place of residence to store anything. After that, I never had much stuff ever again. Usually most of it could be carried with me or sorted fast enough that I could figure out what I could donate and keep easily. Every time I have travelled while living here, I have tended to pack up all my stuff (in boxes, with notes), so that if I die or don't come back, my stuff is not difficult for Don Quixote to deal with.

When The Bumble planned the move to Winnipeg, I hadn't been living in Toronto, and none of us had much time to figure out what to do with our stuff with no family home. This was not The Bumble's concern, and he did not mind leaving a lot of his own mess for us. If we ever had sentimental feelings about possessions or having to say good-bye to pets, he didn't want to concern himself with all that. Look kids, it's the new reality, get over it.

He always had more stuff than anyone else, but he always managed to get us to put in more effort moving it and cleaning the mess. I think some of my earlier experiences likely prepared me for a lifetime of finding or attracting hoarders. In Winnipeg, I volunteered or took the bulk of packing, sorting, cleaning, and helping move stuff more than ? times for no pay. I helped K-Pru move her stuff when she left The Bumble, I helped her son and daughter-in-law move twice, I helped the boyfriend who gave me herpes clean one of his places, and I helped two of his friends move their stuff (and those were massive jobs), and I helped The Bumble pack up his stuff, and I cleaned his place when he moved back to Toronto. The only one who paid me was The Bumble, and this was the first time he ever had, and I think he only did it because he had paid K-Pru's other son to help and thought he probably should pay me, too. I was living on welfare, and I somehow thought I was just doing what you were supposed to, for family and friends. It would be offensive to ask for or take money. It was something I knew how to do, and something I was good at, something I tended to put more effort into than anyone else, without getting tired or even stopping for breaks.

Eventually it was like washing dishes. I just didn't want to have to do it again.

Even when we were really young, The Bumble expected us to help with moves, and he didn't even contact any male friends. For example, even when I was 11 and the oldest, when The Bumble and Natalie moved to the first farm, we were the only ones to help them move all their stuff, including furniture and appliances, and Natalie couldn't do anything difficult because she had a bad back.

It's weird, I have trouble remembering what all the stuff was composed of. What I remember most was this sculpture of a cowboy on a horse. It might have been bronze. He'd won it in a draw, and I think he really liked it.

Don Quixote has this (possibly) cast iron or alloy thing (similar colour, but not the same material) of a knight in armour holding a banner. They used to use it as a doorstop in his family home.

Cecil Livingston Seagull

Dr Velvet Thong: How was it that you came to ask Cecil for a divorce?

Blinky: Cecil deduced that because none of us had enough help or parental guidance, the older siblings were 'lost causes', and he summoned all his energy to save Beany. But he went too far in the other direction.. he did things for Beany, instead of trusting that she could learn how to do them for herself if given some guidance and support. This relates to a high inherited anxiety level in the family.. we were all left without guidance or help when it came to stressful situations (and a lot of this relates to flaws or deficits in communication style), and so we learned how to avoid certain types of situations altogether. Cecil did things for Beany, and then when he had kids himself, he sought to take this stress away for them, too.

When explaining to Beany why he was helping her, he said (in the mid-80s, in front of me, housebound at the time and having dropped out of high school):

Cecil: People who don't go to University are losers.

Blinky: This was quite likely a stand against The Bumble who called people losers for other reasons, but still.. it was kind of insensitive to me and Boo. And in the same time period, Cecil was also quite lovely in some ways. One chrismukkah when The Bumble decided he wasn't feeling very much in the holiday spirit, and he bought us each a new towel and seemed kind of grumpy (but, it could actually be that he didn't have much energy and focused it as positively as he could - think Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy!), Cecil went out and bought Santa presents for everyone as a surprise, and added cute little notes and jokes about reindeer and whatnot.

(Blinky also went out and tried to select special presents for everyone that year. Sometimes they probably forget that even when she hadn't gone out for a very long time, for many years, she still went out chrismukkah shopping, even if it was the only day in the year she did go out. But the focus should be: Cecil does have a lot of positive qualities.)

After not having contact for many years, Cecil contacted me in Australia to help out with a school project for one of his sprogs. I thought that perhaps this was a way to pave the road for further communication, and although I hadn't been given much time to meet a deadline, I bent over backwards to try to help out. I asked many questions, and Cecil did not reply, so I did the best I could based on what little I had to go on. I also researched the Flat Stanley Project online.

Cecil: Cecil Jr has this school project and I'm wondering if you could help us out with it. If you say yes, we'll send out the envelope. Note: we'll need it back in a couple of weeks, because that's when the project is due.

Blinky: OK, I'll give it a try. When it arrives, I'll write if I have any questions.

Blinky thinks about how to explain her 'weird' name to Cecil Jr. If it ever becomes an issue.

mind chatter:

Before Flat Stanely was known as Flat Stanley, he was simply known as Stanley. His experiences led to changes and new abilities, and a new name made sense to reflect these changes and abilities (including that he could go anywhere in the world they had mailboxes!). Because of Blinky's unusual experiences in life, an unusual name seemed necessary to reflect these changes.

Blinky: I wanted to have a chance to write it out, because in my head it seemed to make sense, and to be a simple way of not only explaining to Cecil Jr, but possibly to Cecil himself. It would be important to keep the language as simple as possible, and probably to avoid words like weird.

But the other thing is that the name Blinky might be tricky for another reason that I probably need to think about. I am very searchable on the web, and kids these days find it natural to use computers. Since they start young, they are probably pretty proficient from a young age. My website might be too much information too soon, and it might actually be damaging. Maybe a bit like The Bumble talking to me about things I thought I could handle, but without providing enough guidance to help me sort through it. More damaging than porn, or other stuff on the web? Requires serious thought. It's a different kind of damage, but in my own way, in asserting my right to tell my story, maybe I would be doing what The Bumble did, and leaving those who read without guidance?

And so I have to reluctantly admit that it might not be in Cecil Jr's best interests to have my name forced on him right now, or for any of The Next Gen to have my name and baggage forced on them. This is a dilemma I have to think about, but it could be a case of shutting the barn door way too long after the horses have escaped, at this point. And so then, I guess the question becomes, how to provide some kind of 'guidance' retroactively.

Dr Velvet Thong: A dilemma indeed.

The Xeroxed form letter inside the envelope Blinky receives from her brother is not even addressed to her - there is a blank 'To' line, and neither her brother nor Cecil Jr had filled that in with her name, and no one has signed the 'From' line, either. Basically, it's the same letter every kid in the class would have sent out, but it hasn't been personalized.

Blinky had gathered that the intent of the project was to help young children learn how to correspond and connect with more of the world. She carefully considered the implications.

She wrote up a thoughtful letter which included jokes about how Flat Stanley did not appear tired after his long journey, and a lot of stuff about Australia and possums, as well as some photos of Flat Stanley posing with possums. She even said 'say hi to Cecilia Jr'.

Cecil Jr did not ever send a thank-you, even by email. Basically, the project was in this case a failure, because the sprog in question did not have any contact with Blinky at all.

Blinky: I would not want Cecil Jr to feel guilty about this, as I consider it his parents' failure.

I wondered if it had something to do with protecting his child from some disease or ickiness associated with me, (the stigma and shame of mental illness!), or if it perhaps was just an example of how communication 'works' or doesn't in the family, and so I asked Cecil some questions to feel out his attitudes.

Dr Velvet Thong: It's quite a puzzle.

Blinky: Er Cecil.. since this project was about communication, I'm kind of wondering what has gone wrong with ours. I'm wondering if your lack of response to my questions relates to unresolved personal issues with me, and I would like to try to figure out if it's about the stigma related to mental illness, or something other.

Cecil: I have many multicultural friends and regularly socialize with interracial couples. I am not prejudiced.

End of conversation, finito. She thought about what she might have done wrong, but she had asked a lot of questions about how to better help out or do the project. She worried her letter was too complicated or wordy for Cecil Jr's age group, or if Cecil was disappointed about not receiving Australian coins Cecil Jr could display in class, and if Cecil had replied to her messages, she would have replied that since it is technically illegal to post coins via snailmail, she was nervous about doing anything that might prevent the package reaching them before the deadline. Plus, she had been more than willing to rework the letter for Cecil Jr if it would have helped.

A few years pass.

Cecil: Hello. How's it going? Hope you're well. We're all fine here. Not promising anything, and it's only a small amount if it's anything, but there's a possibility we can acquire some funds owed to Mama Smurf in association with a pension plan she paid into before her death. We require the signature of all living siblings in order to to go forward with this. I've enclosed the forms, Sincerely, The Cecil.

Blinky: I will do so with the stipulation that if there is to be any payout, my share will go to a charity organization called The Father Bob Foundation, and I will require signatures from both Cecil and Beany stipulating that they have read the mission statement of said organization. Boo gets a free pass because I think he already grasps the concepts, or is lightyears ahead of the two of you. Further, these donations will be submitted under your full names.

Cecil: No problem.

Father Bob's mission statement [paraphrased]: We support the unlovely and unloved in society. When any member of the society is cast out, the society itself is failing.

Blinky meant for this to be seen as having parallels for the family as a whole. Cecil apparently did not understand the importance of this to Blinky, perhaps brushing it off as 'craziness'. Blinky also had the distinct impression that Cecil had not even bothered to contact Beany with this unnecessary disruption/craziness, and had forged her signature, or had perhaps forged it with her permission, to just get things done quicker. When the money was awarded, Cecil then wrote back:

Cecil: What do you say I send you your portion and we leave it at this?

Blinky: No, my original terms and conditions stand.

The donations were made, but not in their full names, as specified.

Blinky took to addressing him as Sir Cecilbot, and Beany as Beanybot. However, since she wasn't really sure if Beany knew anything about her terms and conditions, she decided it wasn't really fair to get mad at her. But at this point, she sent Sir Cecilbot divorce papers. Blinky believed it should be possible to divorce - or choose - one's own family. He had done what she asked, but appeared not to have a clue as to why it was important to her. She could easily imagine the condescending or mocking sneer/smirk he made at any time when having to refer to Blinky by name. She'd had enough. This was not the only incident, it was just one in a long line. Every time Blinky had attempted to communicate something that seemed real to her, he seemed to brush it off as if she'd said nothing of import.

After this situation, Blinky felt some guilt, but she realized that the attitudes toward her from the family of origin would likely be passed on, unconsciously or otherwise, to future generations, and she came to the conclusion that she didn't have a snowball's chance in hell of changing the system from within, and that the only way she was ever going to have a fair go in this family was to write a tell-all memoir. However, she has still not managed to get around to that. She still holds out the rather unrealistic hope that one day, when it could be on a more fair and equal footing, the family could be reunited. And even when she divorced her brother and sister, she could not ever wish them ill, and if they had ever needed her help with any complex psychological issue, she would have immediately tried her best to help in whatever ways she could. They were, after all, the original 'possums'. When possums behave badly, or don't understand human behaviour, it is difficult to hold it against them.

And, if she herself 'divorces' family members, isn't she also 'casting them out'? Can you cast out members of a group who have already cast you out?

She's never even allowed to say that she suspects they're mad at her, and she can even understand the reasons why, and they're understandable, but if they won't even admit they're mad, or what for, she can't begin to explain that when they felt abandoned by her or shut out, she had tried to explain about her condition/situation, and they would not allow it, and so it didn't seem that there was any way they were ready to understand what the 'stigma and misunderstanding around mental illness' really mean. Their perceptions of her behaviour and attitudes could therefore only be based on their preexisting prejudices. The most hurtful thing is to know you have suffered in ways others in your family don't perceive as having any significance or relevance, that they find you tiresome or an annoyance, and they think you're just trying to get attention, and that you have no conception that other people have problems. And it does suck that unfortunately, your problems have become so big you are powerless to genuinely help others with theirs, even when you are hyperaware of the problems of others and have wanted to help, and that was one of the major reasons for withdrawal in the first place.

Family Skeleton Dance Party - The First Draft

Blinky: What I realized a long time ago was that it was an impossible situation.

Starting in my 20s, from time to time I'd approach each family member separately and try to open lines of communication, to try to get beyond the superficial accepted approach to communication that mainly centred around getting in contact for birthdays and holidays, and during any communication, to keep things brief, clean and positive. Everyone let me know I was making them feel uncomfortable.

In early 1999, I contacted all the core family members, told them I had changed my name, and I said if anyone wants to talk, I'm available. I gave them an email address that is still valid all these years later, but no one ever took me up on my offer.

After I published my 'psychoanalysis', Boo approached me and made a serious attempt to demonstrate caring and compassion, and since that time, I've had a warm feeling for him. One person can only do so much, and I think he's done more than any person can reasonably be expected to do.

He seems worried about being insensitive, he seems worried about misunderstanding me or making things worse, but he still takes risks in his communication, and is not afraid to express vulnerability, in his attempts to get across true caring/love.

The problem is that the subject matter is just so complex, and family communication has never allowed for this necessity, that members learn how to empathize in complex ways. It's like within the family there is some kind of 'everyone for himself' kind of mentality. There's more than enough trauma to go around, and everyone's been wounded, but everyone ends up thinking 'I'm the strong one, everyone else has had it easy compared to me', when in reality, although all of them are in a sense quite strong to have survived what they did, the family as a whole is not strong. The communication system blows. Unexamined prejudices and brainwashing are allowed to affect relations, in part because communication is so poor.

How can you expect your family members to challenge all the prejudices related to mental health that are continually repeated in pop culture, and from every angle socially and professionally? When you start to see how mental health might be tied to language choices which represent hidden beliefs, it's like you have to completely take on everyone and everything, all the time.

Everyone puts their foot in their mouth sometimes, and I know I've done it more than my fair share. But when any social occasion, even with family, ends up feeling like a negation of one's personal identity and efforts and love, when all 'casual' communication feels like judgment, and when underneath all that it seems like everyone else's self-esteem depends on the demolition of mine, it seems insane to just shut up and put up.

I tried to see as many moves ahead as possible, I tried to figure out how long it might take before I could address all of this well enough such that I could actually feel comfortable communicating with family, and it just seemed like an impossible task. Even if I could somehow thicken my skin, and be as understanding and patient as possible, I could see that at every turn, everyone's instinct would be to try to railroad me back into the safe, deeply-rooted traditional communication patterns in the family.

For a while I thought maybe everyone would do ok in their new families, that they'd recover from trauma and things would be fine, and maybe it was best I just stayed clear and didn't taint their efforts, but I can clearly see that ineffectual communication patterns are still alive and well, and no one is 'ok'.

Aside from that, I am myself an extremely glaring example of something seriously amiss in the family. How can it be that The Bumble is considered basically a 'good person', if a little bumbling, but I have somehow absorbed that I don't deserve to ever feel happy or even to live? Those feelings did not just drop out of the sky - they are the logical extension of family beliefs, taken to the 'right' extremes, given the 'right' circumstances to thrive. For years, my Manifesto has been available online, and I would say it's fairly clear I exist in a desperate and despondent state, and while it makes sense the world would tend to steer clear and judge me, what the fuck is family for if they can't try to extend some kind of compassion or emotional support? As I write that, I know all the reasons it's impossible, and I know that I am so far gone that I won't ever feel comfortable with family or other people in this lifetime, so even if they start approaching me now, it's just going to make all of us uncomfortable. Maybe what I'm saying can help other families with dysfunctional communication patterns and outdated beliefs to address issues before it's too late, and maybe what I'm expressing will pave the way for people to start to understand that in some cases, euthanasia is the best option for people who don't have any chance of creating a network to life.

The members of the family are barely making it in their new families. So any personal identities which revolve around how 'strong' they are is true, but also not true. They were strong to make it that far, but it's not a longterm kind of multi-generational strength. We aren't an 'admirable' family. We suck. The chain is as strong as the weakest link, etc. People, that's why we were selected for family therapy.

We've all seen examples of physical torture, but what about psychological? On a daily basis, the family beliefs torture me, and I want to address them, but I keep being told go away, shut up, say happy birthday and happy chrismukkah, you are out of touch with reality, you are weak and we are embarrassed by you, just get over it already.

I can't get over it. I need help. I think the best solution is euthanasia, and while that's not currently legal, maybe you could think about offering support by either saying 'I can see what you're saying', by vocally supporting euthanasia rights or admitting we need better mental health options or that in some cases, families should really stop breeding before they pass on their horrific patterns.. at least until they address the current messes first, or are committed to working on them. Stand up to people who express prejudice against people like me.

Dr Velvet Thong: You loved your family more than they loved you.

You're right, it's an impossible situation. Surely you know that as the years go by and you keep yammering on, it's getting harder for your family to attempt to relate to you and vice versa. I think all that's left now is just the indirect option of possibly affecting collective consciousness about mental health, perhaps inspiring those less broken to identify solutions.

Blinky: Maybe it's good for human beings to have some secrets, and maybe it's impossible to live without certain illusions. Maybe these were taken away from me too early, and it left me without a foundation, and after that, without realizing what I was doing, I was taking away other people's illusions, the ones necessary to survival, too.

It's so weird, in this retelling of Family Skeleton Dance Party, it's like I've totally forgotten about the part obsession played in my teen years, and I wonder if that means it's a completely unbalanced version. The biggest part of my day was spent obsessing and fantasizing about a guy I barely remember now, and I can't sentimentalize it. And the later obsessions, too, it's like maybe I understand what they were about. I needed some kind of attention and help from family that was impossible to get, so I projected this drama onto others, and it was intense. 'Love' would help.

Dr Velvet Thong: To me, it seems that The Bumble's reactions to your depression - anger, and to your isolation - ignoring it and alternately being angry/disgusted, set the pattern for how the other members of your family saw and treated you. From there, all the people you had contact with were influenced by his attitudes, and you never knew anything except these attitudes to yourself. You internalized them. At the same time, on the surface, it was a 'good family', and everyone loved you. Your instinct - that you had to get away, to university, and later, just to get away - were 'healthy', but because the attitudes were unconsciously affecting you, there was nowhere you could go to escape. Even in seeking out books, music and art, you were still primed to find mixed messages, and not 'enough' to help you.

When you thought or expressed you were 'too fat and ugly' to go outside, and no one in the family challenged that, it set and reinforced a vicious pattern that you still can't overcome.

Out in the world, exploring a variety of relationships, the same pattern was enacted, and now you no longer believe in the possibility of a new message or pattern. In some ways, it's probably a positive thing that the obsessive mechanism no longer kicks in.

Blinky: Knowing that has never been enough to help me overcome it. When I have tried to force myself, I run out of energy before I get very far. Even when I know the triggers in advance, it's not enough, because I can't figure out how to fake motivation or actually wanting to live.

Dr Velvet Thong: You have shamed the family, and they don't want you to live, either - they just aren't consciously aware of it. They don't want you to be happy, and they don't believe you deserve to be happy.

At first, when you moved in with The Bumble and his girlfriend, you were 'successful', so he could taunt your mother with: see how useless you are, she's thriving with me. Meanwhile, she had put a curse on your head: you are throwing your life away, you will come to no good. When you began to struggle under the weight of all their primal anger, and their respective depressions and addictions and conflicting attitudes and preferences, The Bumble became angry, in part because it felt like you were fucking up on purpose, not helping him in the war against Her. He never forgave you. He was not someone who could remain on unpleasant terms in the same house, and he was quite a social animal, but he was one to hold a grudge. You have this pattern a bit yourself, in that even when people treat you in ways you should not accept, you often come to the conclusion some sort of peace must be made, because it is the least bad solution.

He probably mostly believed his own hype. He thought he was a good father, a better parent than your mother, and when he showed 'mercy' by including you in family things and buying you junk food, he felt 'magnanimous', it truly did not make sense to him that you continued to sit there like a lump.

Blinky: I could see that even though he felt he had made a big mistake in having kids and getting married before he was capable of conscious thought, he had decided not to martyr himself over his mistake, and I do admit that I respect that. He figured out what he needed, when it came to keeping and caring for horses (sometimes renting or owning farms, sometimes boarding horses out), addictions (3 packs a day, alcohol, coffee), lunches and dinners out (daily) - whereas we all took brown bag lunches to school, and maybe had dinners out a couple of times a year, and were always conscious about ordering expensive things, and he didn't pinch pennies when it came to himself. He had massive long distance phone bills, and eventually owed Bell Canada a lot of money and couldn't get phones in his name. He believed that all a parent was required to do was to put a roof over the heads, food in the stomach, and otherwise kids pretty much raised themselves, but even so, he was a 'fun' father, and so he believed he was fantastic, doing more than he really needed to. And I sort of get that, and I think a lot of fathers are like that.

I am not sure what proportion of his salary he was able to keep, and how much went to us, but if they were fighting bitterly in court, it would seem that he struggled to hold onto as much as he could for himself. I think it makes sense, though, that if you've got 4 kids and you have some expensive habits, and you don't want to ruin your own life, it takes guts to say look kids, you're going to have to find your own way in life. I quit school and started working at 15. You should be able to do the same.

I suppose it could be argued that in that case, maybe the death of his father was no big loss, but the death of a mother in comparison..

That reminds me, I really need to find a way to get the story about the dead squirrels in the swimming pool in.

Originally, I thought The Bumble was just a bumbler, and mostly a good person, and I think that's how my siblings still see him. I now think he was a truly awful father for me, and also that the others could probably have gone further in life if not for him. In the past, I felt so guilty even trying to write to figure out the situation or remember, and that is because he put a curse on the head of anyone who would even question him. Not only are you a Loser to the soul, you dwell on stupid things and make everything as ugly as you are. He was a monster, but now that I can see it, I have a bit more power, and maybe I can make him into a funny monster, a Bumble.

I think I said before that I was never in any relationship I wanted to last. I think I did want a couple of friendships to last, but when it came to other relationships, I knew beforehand that I wasn't all in. I'm not sure it would have turned out like Madame Bovary or Lady Chatterley, or Damage, or Henry and June, or something more ordinary and boring, but since I already knew I was looking for something less ordinary going into the relationship, and would sometimes wonder if somehow the other unconsciously wanted something compatible and it would take time to work that out, mostly the situation was that I wanted to be 'free' to have something else. I didn't want to be railroaded into a 'normal' relationship or into being or acquiring a beard for fantasy lives.

Blinky: But the truth is that the world would have seen me as my parents did. The photographic proof was that I was some kind of weird mutant, not just 'plain', but bizarrely, uniquely and even shockingly ugly, in a way that defied description. It was like looking at photos of a rare deformity or disability. It was incongruous, and unsettling.

Dr Velvet Thong: You don't think you were blowing things out of proportion?

Blinky: No. People say 'beauty is truth', and I think there was a kind of scary 'truth' in some of my photos that was too much for either of my parents to deal with. My 'disability' was beyond their skill set to cope with. They were scared. I think if I still had those photos now, and as an experiment put them up on the internet - we could see what public opinion would be, and when you look at how harsh people are considering plainness that is really mild in comparison..

Dr Velvet Thong: When your parents saw that they had created a monster, they abandoned you. Looking at you, they felt worse about themselves, and their self-esteem crumbled. This also contributes to whether you believe anyone loves you. Your parents didn't believe anyone could love you, and from there, neither could your siblings, although on the surface, no one gives this away.

Dr Velvet Thong: If it is all right with you, I would like to hear more about your relationship with your sister, Beany.

Blinky: I still feel guilt about this, too, and with my paranoia issues, I worry even about complaining here, that maybe the transcripts of our conversations will be found, and the whole thing will seem horribly unfair to my sister.

Dr Velvet Thong: For now, try not to focus on whether you're an asshole or not. Tell the story as you see it, factor in that there are always more sides to any story, and that if you express it, trying to leave yourself open to the possibility of greater understanding and personal evolution, eventually the guilt might dissipate. At present, it's festering, and so first, we really need to get a good look at the infection, before we can diagnose and treat it.

Blinky: When we were young, there were times when I was a bully to my sister. I called her names, and once I laughed out loud when she wanted to read out a school project she had done. I thought it was about 'beet ovens', and I didn't know what a beet oven was, and so when I realized it was about Beethoven, I laughed, and I knew that was horrible, but I had a few moments trying to get that under control, but I realize it might have scarred her for life, and when you know the family history, you will know why it's particularly bad.

Dr Velvet Thong: Please continue.

Blinky: Well, my maternal grandmother was my favourite person, and she called my sister Beanerooski. This would cause Beany to throw a tantrum, and it would make my grandmother laugh with delight. I think I was jealous, because I probably absorbed that my grandmother liked Beany better than me. Babci was the youngest in her family, and Beany was the youngest in mine - they were both the babies of their respective families. Babci thought she was 'bad', and she had married a 'good' man, and I think she felt bad when she fell out of love with him. I think I reminded her of him. She thought I was 'good', because when we visited, the first thing I would always do would be to run to her bedroom to say hello. I will get back to this later, but when I was young, I don't think it really registered that the shades were always drawn, and that it must have been bloody fucking awful to spend so much time bedridden, especially in a time without computers or without much to watch on tv, even without remote controls, and without the ability to physically hold a book, (or dial or hold a phone easily) because her hands were so deformed by rheumatoid arthritis. My sister had a temper and was really cute. I was sort of boring, quiet and plain in comparison. And so that might have something to do with why I sort of 'got creative' in calling my sister names. In a way, I might have been trying to be like my grandmother. However, by the time I was 13 and lived with my father, I didn't ever call her names again. In fact, it stopped a couple of years earlier, and over time, I became more aware of other ways in which I might be ill-treating Beany, and I made conscious efforts to stop, and to make amends - with ongoing words and deeds, not superficial lip service.

The more serious issue is one that I think the Bumble managed to deflect attention away from rather successfully.

Her development was very likely affected by the stage of disintegration in the marriage of our parents, and resultant physical health issues she experienced, but he showed no understanding of this. He could often be found muttering under his breath about what a moron she was, that she couldn't tie her shoes or tell the time by a certain age (9-10). We were supposed to chalk this up to his sense of humour. Her interest in reading was likely inhibited by a kind of serious pressure the Bumble inflicted. He would point to a book he liked, and state that any person who could not appreciate it had to be an absolute moron. That's not the greatest way to motivate a child to enjoy reading. And because I had gone first, and had developed an interest in reading early on, the Bumble could also use me as an example to inflict more pressure. Because I was reasonably good at spelling and grammar, I became an example that could be used to further intimidate her.

Dr Velvet Thong: Do you think The Bumble was conscious of his efforts to sabotage?

Blinky: I think he lived with a high anxiety level, and saw everyone as a potential enemy or threat to his success or position or authority/power. He wasn't really prepared to be married or have kids, and when he was/did, he found it impossible to override these instincts and programmed patterns. His ways of controlling and coping with the unknown, or life, extended to everyone in his life. He had to keep everyone off-balance such that no one would ever question his authority or have more power. I think he both wanted his kids to reflect well on him, as an extension of him, and that he was also terrified that any of his children would surpass him.

He could mutter about Beany, but then he would take shots at my 'intelligence', even while he was using it to intimidate Beany, letting me know that what he really valued was 'street smarts', athletic ability, and a sympatico with animals. So, he could let Beany know that underneath his 'sense of humour', he actually valued her qualities, and looked down upon mine. He always sent mixed messages, with all of us.

Dr Velvet Thong: Do you think your relationship with possums represents some need to seek your father's approval?

Blinky: Maybe, but I think he might see possums a bit like pests, a bit like the kinds of animals that don't matter, or that must be killed because they destroy fields - like groundhogs.

Later on, when Beany had a daughter, I tried to bring up the subject of whether the Bumble had ever tried to seduce her (Beany), and suggested that it might be a good idea to watch him as her daughter grew up. I did feel guilty, and like I might be perceived as a crazy, irrational freak, but I would have felt guiltier if I hadn't said anything - and she replied with contempt that she would never have let him get away with such behaviour, implying that if I had, I was weak and stupid.

I thought about this. In a lot of our conversations, she was in one way or another telling me I was weak because I was not able to work or find fulfillment in life - and she was strong. I conceded that maybe she was right, but eventually I didn't think it was healthy for me to let her keep repeating this message, rubbing it in my face.

Then there's the whole stepbrother 'loser' situation, you know, the one I have mentioned before where in front of everyone, The Bumble said with utter contempt to my stepbrother: Get a fucking job, you fucking loser!' And no one there said a word.

I realize now that it wasn't just that in the moment I couldn't stand up for my stepbrother - it was that I couldn't stand up for myself, and that's why I couldn't stand up for him. My hypothesis is that because no one could stand up to my father or challenge his prejudices, in a sense everyone accepted his beliefs and internalized them.

He had a way of spinning a situation and deflecting focus such that someone else would take all the heat. Later, the way others in the family would perceive this whole situation was that The Bumble was actually a hero, because he was the one to get that loser a job, one that he still had decades later.

To me, though, he's not a hero and it is like my stepbrother has to be grateful to his abuser, and maybe he even is. I do see how important it is to have a career, but it is important to me to try to shift the focus a little.

The kid could not have succeeded in this line of work if he didn't have the right aptitude all along, and if he didn't have the kind of work ethic/pattern that would allow him to hold a job for many years - and I think he inherited at least the latter from his mother.

The other thing is that when I worked for my father as his receptionist when I was 16, one of my jobs was to administer aptitude tests, to supervise the applicants while they took the tests, to mark the tests, and to also offer personal observations - maybe part of it was to check how 'respectfully' the applicants would treat a 16 year old girl, but a lot of it might have been hokier, more subjective. However, those who did not score well on the aptitude tests were not good candidates. There were always a lot of candidates - hundreds. And I know that my stepbrother scored in the top 5 when he took his test. So, right under his nose, living in the same house, my father did not recognize that this 'loser' had an impressive aptitude in his line of work. Yes, it's a good thing to address mistakes, but it does suck that it took a suicide attempt on the part of my stepbrother for The Bumble to give him a 'real' shot. But really, he only did so when he could frame the situation to make himself look like a 'hero'.

At this time, my father had no real pull in the industry. He did not 'get' this kid a job. He probably didn't do much more than point him to one of the cattle calls. Yes, I do think this is something, and coming from a disadvantaged background, I guess I can understand that whatever damage the Bumble did, maybe the kid ended up better off. Yes, for that reason, it is difficult to feel self-righteous, but I think it's important for my peace of mind to try to articulate this situation as part of the overall picture.

The younger stepbrother was also quite intelligent and had a lot of potential, but The Bumble managed to spin that situation such that he was seen as a 'problem kid who has to go to a halfway house until he learns to behave and not disrupt the family', when the truth was probably more like social workers removed him in order to protect him from an unhealthy home situation. I wrote to my stepbrother to try to articulate that this was how I saw it.

As for the stepsister (she was also smart, and had really cool hair), he liked to talk to her about sex, and engage in ticklefights (he didn't engage in ticklefights with her brothers, though). When I witnessed one, it left me with a really sick feeling, but I realized it might be an over-reaction. I can only mention the unfortunate details of her situation. She got pregnant at 16-17. Her boyfriend had been kicked out of home, and was staying with The Bumble et al. He died in a high speed car crash, while living under their roof. It doesn't prove this, but it doesn't seem like The Bumble was a very good influence/role model for any of my stepsiblings.

I can still remember that Beany (in all sincerity) spoke to the stepsister about what a wonderful time in your life pregnancy is, what a blessing having a child is..

Then there was the whole thing with the dogs. Well, one dog. My father kept two medium size dogs in cages in the livingroom. His girlfriend had a lot of cats - more than 10, and the house smelled strongly of cat pee. Every time I visited, I found it extremely difficult to feel comfortable. The poor dogs looked so miserable. Gandhi and I decided to try to take one in ourselves (the one that wasn't The Bumble's favourite), so as to 'help' one, but our apartment was small, and it was a dog with a lot of energy, a midsize dog, and reluctantly, we had to return the dog. The Bumble was triumphant: see it's not as easy as you thought it would be! My solution to the problem is the best one.

That's how he saw it, but at this point I conceded that I wasn't strong enough to address the problems in the family, to help any of the members or even a dog, and I wasn't even sure I was 'in the right'. I think in order to 'help' according to some instinct of mine that was programmed in, I probably would have had to live with that family. The Bumble had been sober for a few years, but he hadn't changed or learned anything. I stopped going to family gatherings. I felt further disconnected from my siblings, because I was the only one who could see all this, but at the same time, I knew that if they were in a different headspace, it was still healthier for them to have a family network as support, and if they could still focus on The Bumble's best qualities, maybe my sense of proportion was out of whack, or maybe I was just at a different stage of development, and couldn't go back.

A while later, I found out that the favourite dog had attacked a kid in a park. The dog wasn't put down.

Dr Velvet Thong: Do you still believe that The Bumble was good with animals? I'm thinking of The Big Horse Show.

Blinky: In some ways yes, and in others, no.

He always needed to have some around, and through the years, when we'd move again, I think he did try to find homes for them, but it was the case that we moved a lot, and we had to get used to saying good-bye to the animals we formed sentimental attachments to.

Because horses are so expensive to keep, and because of how he had treated me, I wonder if it would have been valid to say 'If you want to keep horses, you look after them, or pay me.' But because I had such a great life, I wouldn't have been able to consciously support that argument. I think also it was a commonsense thing and most kids my age believed it was their duty to do chores, contribute. Some kids got structured allowances, but not all. My situation wasn't uncommon.

Dr Velvet Thong: And even now, your siblings still think of The Bumble as more blundering than intentionally 'evil'?

Blinky: Yes, but seriously, I don't think I'm explaining it right, I don't think I'm being fair enough, because although he was quite intelligent, I really don't think he ever meant to do anyone harm. The things that happened, they really just seemed 'normal'.

And the thing is, I can see the arguments in favour that I actually was weak, that many people have much worse backgrounds, experiences, and come out fine - including my own siblings. So basically, I allow for that possibility, while also allowing myself perhaps the 'luxury' of examining it all until I feel I understand it better.

Dr Velvet Thong: I became engrossed in the story, and have only just now realized that I had meant to steer you toward the correspondence with your sister.

Blinky: After The Bumble died, I decided to try again to communicate with Cecil and Beany. The finality of death sunk in, and I thought that if there was anything unresolved, for any of us, it was better to address it sooner rather than wait any longer. At first, they seemed somewhat receptive, but it didn't take long for me to conclude that they were only interested in some kind of neat and clean, superficial interaction. They really didn't see things the way I did, and I thought I could understand enough about the whys.

I didn't think they really understood what I was saying about how the stigma of mental illness affects people, because it was like Beany was saying 'oh yes, how horrible that some people can't see past the stigma, but fortunately we have always accepted you, exactly as you are.'

Dr Velvet Thong: How did you respond?

Blinky: Well, I tried to keep an open mind about whether she really understood what she was saying, and if she meant it, and then, to try to find this out, I sent her a long email, entitled 'family skeleton dance party - the e-book!' I wrote that I understood it was a lot to drop on her, and that I would understand if it was too much to deal with and she just wanted to move on and live in the now, but that as for me, it was necessary to resolve some of the past issues, or I wouldn't feel she was really seeing or communicating with 'me', or that she really cared about 'me'. I said that if it was best for her, then maybe we could agree to wish each other well from a distance, while remaining out of each other's lives, but if we were not to try to resolve any of the issues, then I definitely did not want to just go back to polite superficial conversation as if nothing had happened.

Dr Velvet Thong: What happened?

Blinky: She never replied to the email, not even to acknowledge it by saying: I can see that all of this has affected you deeply, and I am sorry that this is how you perceive events, but I just don't see it the same.

I felt somewhat guilty, because it was an extremely long email, and I know that if she still had residual self-consciousness in relation to things like spelling and grammar, and reading, it might actually have been quite a bitchy thing to do to send her such an email, but at the same time, in the past, things had always been on her terms, and I was always the one bending to be more understanding. I had to do something to speak up for myself, and to try to establish some kind of equality.

And, in the few emails she sent to me, her spelling and grammar were quite good.

Dr Velvet Thong: All right, let's see the bloody thing already.


Something to try to factor in as you read this email is that I have been living in a state of unrelieved distress since approximately age 13. In the early years, it was still possible to access normal responses and emotions, but over time, the effort of containing the distress and the need to be understood have resulted in a communication style that doesn't seem as warm as that of most humans. My focus is on trying to explain clearly and authentically, and I realize that I probably don't come across as very human most of the time.

It is probably a good idea, if you are able to read this email, to give yourself time to process it, and decide if it's better to let things go. I appreciate that you are willing to give me this opportunity to say what I need to say. I think this represents a necessary step in my personal evolution, no matter what the outcome turns out to be. Thank you.

On the family mentality regarding making mistakes: It is insane to think that any human being always behaves perfectly, never treats anyone badly or inconsiderately, or is born knowing how to act in every given situation. However, the family mentality has seemed to be that it's necessary to try to cover mistakes up rather than examine them, admit them and try to make amends for them.

This goes for me, you and everyone else: if any of us have made any mistakes, even serious ones, it doesn't mean we are inherently bad people, or that we can never make up for it. Sometimes, in order that a mistake can be addressed, it has to be brought into conscious awareness, and that involves disturbing the peace.

When it comes to mistakes, I have been ready (for decades!) to acknowledge and try to make up for mine. However, I can't do this unless I am confronted directly with anything that is unresolved for others.

Even though many people are more aware that there is stigma and misinformation in regards to depression, they don't really know what that means, or how it is expressed in society and daily life.

One of the ways that effects of stigma and misinformation are expressed is that even well-meaning individuals inadvertently blame those who are depressed for their own depression.

This comes across in various ways, but specifically in our family, to me, it came out in the following ways:

1. Since we all went through something traumatic, if I couldn't get through it as well, I was not as strong or responsible as the rest of you.

2. There are people in the world who have it worse who have managed to accomplish great things, without whining about how hard they've had it.

3. It all happened so long ago. Isn't it time to give it a rest? Blinky seems to think she is the only one with problems, and wants all attention for herself.

I became aware of possible effects of the Bumble-Mama Smurf syndrome - in everyone - from the time I was 16. One thing that has been difficult for me is that my efforts to counteract some of the potential effects in others were never perceived, even once everyone had grown up, had more experience of life, the world, people. No, it would not surprise me that there are effects currently in play for others, but it is difficult for me that the effects on me were usually dismissed in the ways listed above.

My interaction with the world itself was so affected by these early experiences that all my subsequent relationships have reflected the extent to which I am constantly aware of how all people are affected by their upbringing and experiences, as well as my actions. This constant perception is something I can never seem to shut off or escape.

We all felt the effects of conflict and chaos, but from a young age, I seemed to absorb the depression and distress of the adults to a more extreme degree, and eventually when I could identify that I was depressed, I didn't realize that a great deal of it was related to empathizing with the adults in my life. Later, this would pretty much be extended to the sufferings of all people I encountered (including my siblings), and the world itself. I couldn't shut it out.

The underlying, unspoken competition amongst all of us was related to how insecure we were in our parents' love - we were encouraged to compete in odd ways, which often related to who could best soothe the egos of immature adults. I think this has carried over to all our adult lives, and when we feel insecure about our position in the world, it often goes back to this early conflict.

Who had it 'worst', or who seemed to cope the best and succeed in life is not a competition with the 'prize' being that the recipient deserves the most love. We are all intelligent, unusual individuals,and I think that in the circumstances, all of us did extraordinarily well with what we had to work with. In this email, I am only listing some events and angles, but of course I am aware of much, much more. The Bumble and Mama Smurf are mentioned, and don't have a chance to answer for themselves, but my overall assessment is that they were just enacting their own unresolved family conflict, and deserve compassion.

In writing this 'e-book' (!) my intent is not to provoke competitive feelings, although I realize to some extent it's inevitable. Who most deserves love? All human beings struggle with this on an unconscious level.

When family reunions occur after many years, I think the accepted idea is that there are some things best left unsaid, and all that matters is acceptance. The past is the past.

In my case, the past is not the past, and rather than unconditional acceptance, I seek understanding. My assessment has been that I could have had contact with family again at any time through the years, if I had been willing to accept a kind of condescending love which in effect would entail me gracefully backing away whenever I was judged or misunderstood.

When my resources were depleted for trying to counteract the effects of trauma in my family of origin, I felt guilty, and I felt useless, and in a sense, this was reinforced, and was part of what led to my withdrawal.

No one else endured the years of isolation I did. I lost social ties, but in not working or going to school, or doing the things that others do, I lost a very important framework of support which affected my social validity at all times in the future when I tried to have contact with the world. I do not have the 'right' social passports. In any situation, as soon as people start asking the'innocent' social questions that everyone expects, it becomes apparent that people are suspicious of me. Most people have enough social validity that they don't realize what it's like not to have any unless you lie.

Many people complain about their families, and gripe about all the crap that goes on when they get together for holidays, but the reason most people do not break away from their families is probably that even in families in which there is a lot of animosity, the members do provide a kind of invisible support to each other, and add to each other's social relevance. Starting in my teens, my attendance at family events was no longer regular.

One of the main tenets of family therapy was that although one individual might present with extreme symptoms, it doesn't mean that that individual is weaker than the other members. It is a sign that the family as a system is unhealthy.

However, through the years, the ideas expressed to me personally by family members seemed to reflect that everyone else in the family believed they were too strong to have ever been in my position.

While you say in your email that you have always loved me from a distance and appreciated me, I did not feel loved or appreciated. I had (and still have) the impression that what you said to others about me through the years, and what you personally felt, under layers of political correctness, might not exactly match up to the sentiments expressed recently.

There's a weird split, where I do recognize the phenomenon that certain members of the Bumble-Mama Smurf tribes might be griped about at times, but also mentioned with a certain pride at others. While it's true that I felt like a kind of pariah, or like I had actually been 'exiled' from the family, I know enough about the patterns to realize that not everything felt or expressed about me would be resentful.

Decades of silence do not 'feel' like 'love' to a person who is isolated from the world without realistic ways of making connections to people. If a person is terminally ill and in great discomfort, family members usually express support and caring. I have often made the parallel between my situation and that of a terminally ill person. I think one of the issues is that no one knows what to do, but I also think it has been the case that I have been 'blamed' for my own situation. It's not like it's a secret that I suffer depression and have had no wish to live since my early 20s - if any other clues were missed during the years, it has been on the web for 13 years now. It's one thing if you realized long ago that you needed to focus your energy on your own survival and the survival of those important to you, but it does not really seem accurate for you to imply that I have been important to you. I was one of the expendables, not just to you, but to everyone.

Starting from the early 90s on, I tried to explain what was happening with me, and it is fair enough that you were then still too young to hear it, but I did occasionally try to broach the subject through the years afterward, and when I did, I did not feel accepted, supported, or loved. I felt judged. I could be 'accepted' by family, but it seemed that I would only be accepted if I could be the 'me' who was less 'negative', which implies that depression is something that can be controlled, by those who are considerate of others.

While there were some brief forays into the world between the ages of 16-23 for me (when you were 11-18), for the vast majority of that time, I was not leaving the house. Again, you were young, and might not have realized the significance of my situation, partly because you had your own life to worry about, and partly because of the family attitudes. My situation was both ignored/neglected, and covered up as something shameful. The last behaviour is something we were all complicit in, and in the long run, it became one of the hurdles to overcome.

It is extremely difficult to convey what that isolation was like. While everyone else was going to school or work, I was alone in the house/apartment, day after day, year after year. I have always had a very active mind, but I had no connections to the real world outside in which to develop it. We all lacked family and outside support, but at this time I lacked the structural support of having a 'real life' with real connections to the world, the support of continuity, and the formation of important patterns at a critical stage of development.

There was no one on my side, no one who expressed concern about my potential or future. It felt like everyone had given up on me. Only a year previously I had been an exceptional student, considered full of potential and in less than a year my new identity was: this one's a dud. There's nothing we can do to help her. She was never quite right in the head.

It's not exactly flattering to have people 'love' you in spite of this sort of thing.

At 16, to some extent I knew what it was like to be a middle-aged housewife. While suffering Post Traumatic Stress, I somehow managed to cook and clean, as well as complete Grade 12 through correspondence courses. However, those are the things I did that it is easier to see. At that time, I felt an enormous responsibility. I was very often the oldest person in the house. I experienced a very pronounced sense of family loyalty that had never been evident before. I became very aware of you, Cecil and Boo, how special you all were, and that it would be tragic if that specialness was somehow lost. It is difficult to express or quantify how this manifested, but it was partly in an increased awareness of what you have termed The Bumble-Mama Smurf syndrome, and part of what it entailed for me was making efforts to speak up (to The Bumble) regarding your needs, standing up to him when he put anyone down or tried to reinforce negative family stereotypes, taking the initiative to offer supportive personal comments to each of you, and making attempts to address areas of insecurity that I perceived. I did not receive this in return.

I realized that I myself had contributed to your insecurities, partly through teasing that had occurred when you were young. But I spent years trying to correct it. I am not sure if you realized that the person who had originally set the example that it was ok to treat you that way was The Bumble (and also Babci).

He never had to face any consequences for reacting not only with anger, but with brutal physical violence to my depression.

He and Mama Smurf managed some pretty severe blows to my self-esteem as well. At the age of 13, although I had a legal right to make a choice, Mama Smurf put a lot of anger into expressing that I was an 'ugly person' for making the choice to live with The Bumble, and she also expressed that I was throwing my life away and would never amount to anything, in phonecall after phonecall. When I was 16, The Bumble himself gave up on me after less than a year of 'problems', which were in large part influenced by his behaviour and Mama Smurf's. I did see that she later felt guilty about some of her behaviour, but she had never been able to articulate this verbally to me.

The Bumble didn't understand my depression, and demonstrated to the family that it was ok to treat me with anger and contempt, or to ignore the situation, while waiting for me to fulfill the psychic prophecy that I would kill myself by the time I was 21.

He was seriously struggling, and while he had lost credibility in work for a while due to the 'psychic stuff', most people did not really realize the extent of his struggle. He was struggling with the responsibility of raising 4 kids, hating his line of work, feeling that life had passed him by, and when he wasn't feeling hopeful about being a great leader with an instrumental role in the upcoming Apocalypse, or performing 'exorcisms' with his 'psychic friends', he alternated between suicidal thoughts and wishing us all dead. In particular, the latter was focused on me, and it was a very big burden to bear. At that time, I was still young and had a lot of love and hope, and it is my perception that I used it to protect my siblings from The Bumble's darkness. I realize that no one else might have seen it that way, or that I tried to help The Bumble himself as well.

It is one thing to understand that a parent is mentally ill and that he doesn't mean to hurt anyone, but it is another to be young and inexperienced and to try to understand it all without a similar understanding being extended to oneself. Unfortunately, The Bumble used his authority and prejudice in ways that influenced how others in the family saw me. I even think that my 'exile' in later years was influenced by his ongoing example.

I realize it is not black and white, and that contradictory things may be true at once, but in a sense, both of my parents 'gave up on me'. Before Mama Smurf's death, she and I never had a chance to truly make amends, and the only times I had seen her, I was always aware of how much my weight displeased her, and I would also pick up that she was afraid no one would ever love me. Through the years, while at times The Bumble seemed to 'accept' me, he would also often look at me with disgust, and I realized that he dismissed me as a 'dud'. (Oh well, 3 out of 4 non-duds ain't bad). But even after this particularly bad time period, his anger toward me was pretty extreme, and he would treat me with contempt or admit to having fanatasies or hallucinations of murder. I had through the years tried to talk to him on various occasions, not understanding what was wrong with me and why I couldn't function in the outside world, saying I was willing to go for treatment, but he would brush it off and ignore me for years. I think he set the example regarding how to see and treat me. In part, it relates to his own experiences in seeking help - when he tried to get it, he did not find it. If he had to cope without, so should I, or I was a 'dud'. In addition, it didn't seem that there was any real help out there.

I put conscious effort into trying to address the wrongs that you had endured, not just those inflicted by me, but by everyone. At age 16 I was isolated from the world and in a sense living like a middle-aged housewife with major responsibilities. When you were 16, I put conscious effort into being there for you, after school, or any time you needed. At first, you were rude to me and pushed me away, which I thought was understandable. I hung in there. I consciously put effort into building your self-esteem, and doing for you what had not been done for me. This became a pattern that carried on to when you were working - it was pretty common for you to be very stressed and to need someone to talk to, and while you were at work, it was not uncommon for these calls to take an hour or more. In my estimation, over the years, I put in hundreds of hours trying to express my 'love' for you. However, I don't believe the number of hours 'proves' love. The underlying reality was that for a very long time, I did have a lot of love for you, the rest of the family, including The Bumble, and I had enormous family loyalty. My perception was that the kind of understanding and love I had extended to all of you was not returned to me. No matter what, though, I have always wished the best for you,and believed there was something special about all of you.

Later on, it seemed to me that although you were older and had more life experience, you had not processed the information or understood how my situation differed from yours and that of the others, and that you were thinking of me as 'weak'. Our relationship had worked as long as the focus was on you and your problems. It was never ok for me to talk about my problems with you. It seemed to me that you had not understood that just as you had been wronged, so had I. I thought that your assessment was that over the years I had contributed more harm than good to you. I tried to bring up these subjects various times, but it did not seem that you were open to it. In the end, I accepted that I couldn't control how you perceived the situation, but I also thought it wasn't healthy for me to support your view of me by accepting it for the sake of peace. To me, it felt like that would be a negation of my identity. It did seem that my 'love', and everything I thought I was - were all illusions. Worthless. I was 'accepted' and 'loved' in spite of my 'failings' as a human being and sister. It didn't feel like acceptance or love to me, and I couldn't pretend. You didn't want to talk about it, and I didn't feel I had any option but to pull away. Without open communication, there was no possibility of trust, understanding, or change.

In the last few years before I moved to Australia, I did definitely notice that you were making an effort to reach out to me. There were a few things that made it impossible for me to respond.

1. You said that when Beany Jr had asked why all of you didn't see me, you had told her I was "busy". I asked if she could be told I was an unhappy person, and you said no. If Beany Jr at that time could not be told of the existence of depression in the world, what hope was there of her ever really seeing who I was, or getting a more comprehensive view of the effects of the Bumble-Mama Smurf legacy?

2. You still did not seem to want to hear my version of our relationship, and my perception of my experience. If I tried to express it, I was left feeling that I had gone too far, been inappropriate.

3. Much of your conversation seemed to reflect the stigma and misinformation related to depression I have mentioned at the start of this email (it is probably better if you check it again rather than I repeat it here.)

4. In addition, when your SO's dad died, you said that in the obit it was written that he was an antiques dealer, because "that's who he was". If I had no job, who was I? Your remark had said something about your underlying beliefs. Aside from that, my recollection was that when people talked about his dad, what they usually did was make some kind of comment about how much he drank, without really ever wondering why he drank. To me, it seemed likely that people discussed me in similar ways. There would be a split, two versions. One that was 'politically correct' and made people feel they were 'reacting appropriately' and being 'good people', and another that expressed their unconscious prejudice and unwillingness to get involved. And it was always so bloody hard to get people to talk in a 'real' way that eventually, it seemed 'healthier' to remove myself from situations in which people felt the need to perpetuate a kind of charade. That kind of split was frustrating to me, and did not seem representative of the kind of 'love' I could value.

5. During this time period, I was facing the prospect of homelessness. The original participation of the family was what helped to get me on disability in 1992, but after it was granted, I never went to therapy again. Everyone might have assumed I was 'set for life', but it doesn't work that way. You have to be 'functional' enough to 'prove' you are disabled enough to require disability. If you don't go for therapy, it can't be proven you have problems, because no one is supervising you. Family therapy was once a month, and I usually either got a ride there with The Bumble, or one of the rest of you would accompany me, but as soon as disability was granted, family therapy stopped. Going to personal therapy on my own was not achievable, but no one in the family recognized this.

When you heard Gandhi and I were breaking up you offered to let me stay with you, but because I had not been allowed to talk to you freely in the past, you were not aware of what that would entail. You had no way of knowing what it would actually mean or what you were getting into, and I felt I would be setting myself up for major judgment and stress, and that it would actually be easier to be homeless.

After living for 3 years with Gandhi, I was no longer eligible for disability. I was considered his legal responsibility, because we were 'commonlaw'. He was not up to the task of helping me to apply for disability, became increasingly withdrawn and was willing to let me become homeless. I could not contact family because they were not aware of my situation or the details of what it was like to live with me, and if the process of trying to help me get back on disability was too much for Gandhi, it would have been way too much for anyone else in the family. I chose the extreme solution of moving to Australia, but in doing so, I could never escape the feeling of imposing, or that everyone I encountered judged me. Yes, it was the right decision, but I have not lived a happy life, and I have faced the prejudice and effects of stigma throughout that time, even from those I have been 'closest' to.

I would prefer to have never existed.

In a recent email, you spoke of me as being intelligent, fun-spirited and innovative, but the way I perceived things was that people in the family saw me as a spelling-grammar-memorization machine, not someone who was 'really' intelligent. We all had various niches within the family, and in those years, I was never seen as creative or innovative. Later on, when I started to become more non-verbally expressive (for example, changing my appearance in various ways to represent what I was not really 'allowed' to say), I think it's possible that some of you began slowly to reinterpret the past, but my guess is that 'innovative' as a way of describing me is perhaps something that has only come to mind relatively recently.

As for the fun-spirited part, I have been conscious of being depressed since the age of 13. Beyond that age, I did not really have 'fun' the way most people might, and I was under pressure to appear happy so as not to disturb the peace or be a burden. A few years later, I became aware that it could be perceived as 'manipulative' to openly express depression. I'm almost 48. That's a long time to be depressed without significant relief or hope that things can get better. Often when people discuss depression, and they go through the questions/surveys, 'loss of interest in usual activities' is one of the signs of possible depression. I became depressed before I had even developed any true interests. I didn't know myself well enough to know what I was interested in - and as a result my 'interests' had more to do with trying to please the authority figures in my life, because I was always unsure of their love.

The 'loving' part I have addressed elsewhere in this email. I would say that at the time Mama Smurf died, and for many years afterward, I really did love you and everyone else. But the word 'love' came to be a very complex term to me. It came to mean 'you are destined to kill yourself', 'you are a dud', and 'it's all for the good of the universe if you die'. It came to mean that my father could have fantasies of killing me, that he could behave in inappropriate sexual ways and then question my credibility - never caring enough to really think about how his behaviour affected me, whereas I was always thinking about how my behaviour was affecting everyone, and how everyone (including he) had been affected by stress and trauma. It came to mean 'you are weak and irresponsible, but we care for you anyway'. It came to mean that my years of caring were not perceived, and/or were dismissed as nothing. It came to mean 'I will say one thing to your face and another behind your back, but I will never allow you to question me'. For me, 'love' became a nonsensical word, or even a word that has an opposite meaning to its apparent one.

At first I accepted that I had a 'chemical imbalance' which caused the depression, since no one really saw any real reasons for me to be depressed. However, the term 'chemical imbalance' is not even scientifically related to anything - it is not something that has been proven. On the other hand, I now see many concrete reasons for my depression and how it affected my development. To me, my reactions to circumstances do not even seem excessive.

I can't expect the members of my family to believe that my reactions weren't overreactions, however, I don't believe that I did overreact. For many years, I have wished for an acknowledgement from family that they can see that my reactions, and how I developed, make sense.

Depression isn't something I can snap out of or cure with positive thinking. In my case, there is no realistic network of support consisting of ties to life in various levels and layers of life. There isn't a stable foundation upon which to build 'happiness'.

The judgments I faced within the family make sense to me because they abound in the world itself. Any time you watch tv or a movie, read something on the internet or elsewhere, there are many messages which perpetuate the stigma. In any relationship I have, I have to basically 'take on the whole world'. It always feels like an 'all against one' situation. Communicating with family or others is always stressful because I don't truly feel accepted or understood, and it seems to me that the only way to change things is to be part of change myself - and that means trying to challenge the old ideas.

Sometimes, depression is an expression of rage against powerlessness, turned inward. Writing this email is perhaps a step in feeling less powerless. I can't force you or anyone else to see my side, but I can at least make an effort to stand up for myself when I think I have been misunderstood. It's not that I didn't try earlier, but it was that in various ways, members of the family told me that I did not have a right to my perception and feelings, or at least that they didn't want to hear about it. If things have changed over time, how could I know without some kind of acknowledgement? Boo has provided this to me, and it means a lot to me, but it is still difficult feeling that I have to take on the rest of the world.

I understood that my situation was so complicated it was unlikely anyone could understand. It seemed understandable that others held the opinions they did of me. It seemed like an impossible situation, and that perhaps the best solution was for me to quietly disappear. I tried to do that. I would have been happy if I had died many years ago, without dredging up family skeletons. But when I moved to Australia, and created a website, I learned to look at my thoughts instead of discarding them and torturing myself with guilt for having them. I no longer trusted anyone or believed I had any real supports in life. Creating the website was a coping mechanism, a way of starting to stand up for myself, and in a way to express that I wanted more out of life than to quietly disappear for everyone else's convenience and peace of mind.

Realistically, I am not sure I will ever be part of the family.

I appreciate that you are willing to listen, and if you have made it this far, that's impressive. It could be that that is the best that can be achieved in this situation.

I realize that your experience of our shared past might differ from mine. Memory is a strange thing, and it's extremely difficult for any person to remember events of an emotional nature accurately. If you want to question or correct anything I have written, I want you to do so. It might help me to get to another level of understanding, whereas up until now I have been somewhat stuck.

You have to set limits for yourself, and make a decision that is best for you. I greatly appreciate that I have been allowed to express my thoughts. I had thought that what would happen was that I would probably die before long, and the whole matter would be over with, and no one in the family would really have to deal with any more of this. However, when I learned of The Bumble's death, I realized that things were not resolved for me. It had seemed to me that The Bumble's and my differences were irreconcilable, but I was not completely sure when it came to you and Cecil. I thought it was best to try to find out for sure, rather than assume.

You mentioned finding common ground. It might be extremely difficult, because our philosophies might continually clash or be a source of conflict. It might be healthier for both of us to wish each other well from a distance.

Tarot readings have been a way through which I have been able to communicate with Boo, and I think that if you and I were to have future contact, that might be the way to go. That option wouldn't necessitate smalltalk or dwelling on differences, but would potentially allow for the expression of whatever positives we might have in common, and it's possible it could be fun. However, a certain amount of trust would first have to be established, and if despite our best efforts a kind of unresolvable conflict or feeling of stress remained, I think that would affect tarot readings. In that case, the option of wishing each other well from a distance, knowing we tried our best, would be the best option.

I am not a happy person. I am not sure I am capable of experiencing happiness in life, although I do wish to know what it's like to experience happiness, and I want to be able to connect as fully as I'm able. I don't know if I can trust anyone, or love anyone, or believe that anyone loves me, but I want to believe that all of these things are still possible. I can recognize loving behaviour, and appreciate effort. And I can sincerely wish you

health, happiness, and love, whatever decision you make regarding our communication,


Dr Velvet Thong: Did you ever hear from her again?

Blinky: Not until my 50th birthday - a little over 2 years after I sent the email. Well, technically, she was a day late, but probably didn't realize it, because in Australia we are more than half a day ahead.

Her message just read 'Wanted to wish you a Happy 50th Birthday!'

I realized it might have taken a lot of courage even to send a simple message, but it was like all I had tried to express had counted for absolutely nothing with her. I know that I had specifically said I did not want to ever go back to polite but superficial conversation. And so I sent a reply entitled:

Birthday Chainsaw Massacre - The Director's Cut


I know it was probably difficult to send me a message, not knowing how I'd take it. The brutal truth: Not only was your message completely devoid of personality, it contained not even a hint of evidence that you understand the first thing about me. And I find this kind of amusing, because it's not like I go to great lengths to hide who I am.

Our approaches to communication and our underlying values aren't compatible, and it seems to me you want to pretend you don't see this. I don't want polite and ultimately superficial communication. Over the years, you have made it clear that this is pretty much all you're up for. That's fine, and I can respect your need to set limits for yourself, but you can't ask me to pretend I don't find it phony and unsatisfying.

When I sent that long message called 'family skeleton dance party', that was me trying to find out if there was any authentic place at all for us to connect. I accepted that there wasn't, but I won't accept you ignoring that message as if it never happened, such that you just think it's ok to go back into polite-superficial mode.

What I maybe most notice is a surreal kind of effect. It's so strange that people can get trapped in ineffectual patterns of communication for so long, for no good reason.

I don't have a sentimental attachment to the concept of a biological family, and I don't have enough positive associations or memories to make me more amenable to compromise. I'm not saying I want to erase the past or deny it. I'm saying that to me, the only thing that makes sense is for us to let go, give ourselves permission to move on, and try to concentrate on our own real families, the ones we choose for ourselves.

I do want you to have a good life, and I don't want to stress you out with this message, but there's no real way to sugarcoat the message it is essential to convey here. I want to be clear about this: I consider us divorced. I do not want further contact.


Dr Velvet Thong: Hmmmm. How do you think your sister took it?

Blinky: She probably thought it was fucked up. In the past, occasionally some outburst would slip when I had trouble dealing with her prejudice, judgment and dismissal of me, and that would be her response: 'you're fucked up.' Maybe she thought I was drunk, or it was an example of mental illness when I sent the 'family skeleton dance party' email, so she waited a couple of years for me to calm down, and then sent as non-provoking a message as possible on my birthday to try to guide me safely back to the fold.

I felt like our family was a borg colony, and she was one of the messengers sent out to try to get me to fall in line, to understand that resistance was futile.

The lack of response to Family Skeleton Dance Party did not make me feel like she had always accepted me, exactly as I am.

Dr Velvet Thong: Do you think that maybe that message was her way of 'wishing you well from a distance?'

Blinky: I suppose it could have been, but if it was, it felt phony to me, like nothing I had communicated registered in any real way, and like she was communicating with some idea of a sister that was only about social form and had nothing to do with me as a person or any shared personal history.

Dr Velvet Thong: Did you send that message drunk?

Blinky: Family Skeleton Dance Party? No, but I wrote most of Birthday Chainsaw Massacre drunk, added the title the next day, thought carefully, or as carefully as I could, and then I sent it, sober.

Dr Velvet Thong: Do you think your sister hates you, or wishes you harm or bad luck?

Blinky: No. I don't think that's who she is. She might get that our differences are irreconcilable. I think she might like support regarding how 'awful' I am, and she might like to be told she's nicer, better looking, fitter, and smarter, and 'stronger', less of a negative whiner, but I don't think she'd actually wish me harm, and I don't think she'd even want to dwell on it even if she did want me to know people liked and respected her more. Or at least I don't think she would have conscious access to such intent.

Dr Velvet Thong: It's taken a long time, but I think you've made some headway in figuring out for yourself why birthdays and holidays are so difficult for you. Aside from the cultural obsesssion with aging, and that seeing photos of yourself at such occasions tends to further add to a negative impression of the days in question, let's try to summarize the issues for you in particular.

Blinky: I think it relates to a cluster of events around the time of my 23rd birthday in 1989, and then some followup around the time of my 24th birthday in 1990.

I can't remember exact dates for most of it, and maybe I can't remember the exact sequence, just that each incident or factor contributed.

One morning, The Bumble was walking around in his bathrobe. He'd just woken after a night of drinking. In Winnipeg, he drank more than he ever had before. For a year or so, he drank a bottle of rum every night, plus whatever he had at work. There was a large supply of alcohol at work, partly for customers, but mostly for the executives. Plus, at work dinners or lunches, it was accepted that everyone drank.

I had just finished cleaning up in the kitchen, and when I walked into the livingroom, he seemed startled to see me.

He gave me a look of contempt and disgust, and said very coldly, 'I thought I killed you last night.' I didn't know what to make of it, and just let it pass.

K-Pru moved out of the Winnipeg house on my birthday in 1989. At the time, The Bumble was away on a business trip. He was unhappy with the job in Winnipeg, and might have been checking some other options out. He was to return that night.

I helped her move. Her son and I did the heavy lifting. As usual when moving, I did a lot of the grunt work, and moved at a brisk pace. She took half the furniture, plus whatever had been hers before she met The Bumble. When we were done, she dropped me back at the house, and I did the cleanup there. I'd had a busy day.

The Bumble seemed angry when he came home, not upset or hurt that K-Pru had left. All year, he'd treated her badly. To me, it seemed like he frequently raised his voice, and let her know she was a disappointment. One of the things he yelled about was that it took her a few months to find a job in Winnipeg after the big move there for his job. (His $100,000/year job, with car, expenses, many perks, and a low cost of living in Winnipeg.)

He was so angry he didn't seem to want to talk. I guess I should have been more sensitive, but my addiction issues kicked in, and birthdays were usually a time when I'd at least get to choose something I wanted to have. I brought up my birthday, and so when he went on his liquor store and cigarette run, he said I could come in the car. He gave me $10 to buy some things at the convenience store. I don't think we talked beyond that.

I didn't talk to my siblings on the phone that year. It was probably the first year we hadn't talked or seen each other on my birthday.

In the next weeks, The Bumble continued to drink every night. I didn't have to unplug and hide the phones in Winnipeg, because the company paid his long distance bills. I thought it would be good if he could talk to friends, but if he did call them long distance, it seemed like he also wanted to talk to me, and so for many nights, I listened to him talk about how much he hated the Winnipeg job, and I tried to express support to make the decision to quit. One of these nights, he told me about the prophecy, and there was something in his tone that confused me. I didn't process it in the moment, but I think I got that he was disappointed I hadn't killed myself. It might have been partly that he wanted to quit his job, he wanted to be free of all his responsibilities, and he didn't know what to do with me, and so now especially I was a really big problem. He'd put this problem out of his mind, placed objects in front of it, or let it all pile up, like manure in the stalls in Schomberg.

I felt guilty, and didn't know what to do with myself. It sounds like we were talking a lot, but we were talking about him, not me. That's what the pattern was, even back when I was 13. It's not that I never mentioned anything about myself, but everything always tended to go back to him, the person with real problems.

During this period, he had the accident while working a horse he was boarding at a stable. He wasn't riding, it was like what you do early on, when you have a rope around the horse's neck, and stand in the middle of the arena, and let the horse go around and around. I think it was something like that. He slipped, and broke his collarbone. I know that's a bad injury. Family communication is dysfunctional, and I didn't know what I was supposed to do to help.

Maybe he thought I was useless or lacking compassion, but when I went through anything, I had learned to keep it to myself. There were a few things I had to do, including that he needed help getting a shirt on/off.

When this accident occurred, he stopped drinking. When he was settled in his routine and thought he could manage with his shirts and whatever else, he had the police take me to a psych ward. At the time, I guess I could see that he had left a problem (me) for so many years that he didn't know what else to do. I thought also that maybe he would have a better chance to quit drinking, and to be happy, just focusing on supporting himself, if I was dealt with.

But for the police to come, he'd have had to say that I was either a danger to others (him) or myself.

On the day in question, I'd spent hours cleaning the house, and then saw him walking around flicking cigarette ashes on the floor, on purpose. People might argue that with a broken collarbone, maybe it wasn't so easy, and I'm misinterpreting, but the thing is, I saw a look on his face that was like anger, contempt and disgust, and I felt like he wanted to make a mess where I had cleaned, as a passive- aggressive statement, although in those days I'd never heard a term like passive-aggressive. In all the time we had lived in Winnipeg, I'd never raised my voice, never complained, never made a snide comment, or given anyone a snide look. It just wasn't me. When I cleaned the house, I'd dust, vacuum, clean the bathrooms, wash the sheets and towels, and do whatever general cleaning needed doing, including emptying and cleaning all the ashtrays. He had a lot of empty ashtrays to choose from, at a variety of different heights.

[Just to interject, because I'm not sure I've mentioned it elsewhere: I do think I might get what he was angry about, and I think I do need to balance some impressions.. I think when K-Pru and he got married, and I was a 21 year old deadbeat without a job, it affected their relationship. If they were 'helping me out', then maybe it was time for her to start looking after her kids. She'd left them with their father when they were young, and the oldest had got a girl pregnant, and they needed help getting started, and so they lived with us in Winnipeg until they got on their feet. Plus, because of the move to Winnipeg, The Bumble agreed to finance the final year of high school in Ontario for Cecil and Beany - Beany lived with Jean-Claude's family, and Cecil boarded somewhere, and I think this was good for both of them. They didn't have to leave town for the final year of high school, they didn't have to leave their friends or established connections. The Bumble was extremely resentful about what he perceived as a lack of gratitude, or something similar, and he was especially angry with me, for not contributing. He might have thought that I was constantly grumbling about him, but it's not the case. Aside from the punching incident, in which he had dragged me by my hair and punched me, I started calling him a fucking bastard and the like, and aside from the time I tried to 'comfort' K-Pru when he had started yelling in front of all of us about how he didn't really want to get married, I really had zero conscious awareness of anger or resentment on my part. I think I really was pretty 'zen', accepting, understanding. And he really didn't know me at all. I don't think he knew how ashamed of myself I felt for not 'contributing'. It's not like I was having a high old time. I had no social contacts, I spent most of the time in my room, I had no furniture or bed, and I could go for a month in my room having no contact with anyone, not watching tv, listening to music, or reading, and no one in the house would even notice, or if they did, no one tried to discuss it with me, and no one seemed worried about me.

OK, so both he and K-Pru were now trying to help all the kids out, and although he was trying to be saintlike about it, no one really appreciated it. He was not really able to see that it was 'too little too late', or that it was the least he could do after all the damage he had unconsciously inflicted. And he was incensed that he had to seem like the bad guy to the university because he wouldn't pay for Cecil's education in spite of how much money he was making, or be big enough to disown Cecil officially so Cecil could get a loan. The situation was just too much to swallow for him, even if we were all in that situation because of his poor planning through the years. And the thing is, I do get it. He felt swamped in life, year after year. He was doing his best, and at a certain point he was just fucking done with anyone who didn't get it.

I no longer have a problem in using the name The Bumble. It's actually very fitting. He himself always liked to choose humorous names for people and pets. My freaking horse was named Goober Baby, and I never actually liked those kinds of names, and I had no say. Anyway, the point is about proportion and entitlement. The Bumble was unconsciously 'entitled' to the extent that he did not know he was demanding 50 times more understanding and compassion than he was able to offer others. I understood that instinctually then, and I guess I was 'strong' enough to remain compassionate. He made more money than everyone else, so he was entitled to more of everything. It's simple math.]

For a moment, I snapped. I threw a small dish at the wall in the dining room. Not in his direction; he was in the livingroom, 180 degrees in the opposite direction of where I'd thrown it. I yelled and said he was incapable of loving anyone, and I stormed off. Within a few minutes, I had calmed down, and was ready to apologize, clean up the plate and re-plaster the wall, but he said it was too late, he'd called the police and they would be there in 5 minutes to take me away.

I guess with the broken collarbone he could argue I was possibly dangerous, but I think the issue was more likely that he was afraid he'd kill me, that he had that much rage regarding me.

And then the police were there, and I asked them if I could get a different pair of socks, one without holes, and they came into my room with me, maybe thinking I'd try something, but I just looked for socks, couldn't find any without holes, and gave up.

I cried in an uncontrollable manner the whole way there in the police car. I felt embarrassed about it, I tried really hard to get it under control, and I just couldn't. I was asked some questions, but I was crying so uncontrollably I couldn't speak coherently, and I think this resulted in an original misdiagnosis when I arrived at the hospital.

I was wearing the same oversize sweatshirt and black leggings I'd been wearing for a year, I was wearing no makeup, and I hadn't left the house except to help K-Pru move, her son move, and to go chrismukkah shopping, in a year. I was self-conscious, and forced to sit for more than 24 hours on a stretcher in a crowded Emergency room. I had a watcher and wasn't even allowed to go to the bathroom without a watcher, and the bathroom was one you could see into from the Emergency hallway that was crowded with people on stretchers. To top it off, I had stomach/bowel pain that was fairly severe.

And after that, when I entered the psych ward, it reeked of urine and feces, and a woman with diarrhea running down her bare leg tried to touch me.

I have mentioned before that I thought the psychiatrist in charge of my case might have had sadistic tendencies and a god complex. In the time I was there, I don't think we talked for more than half an hour tops, and on one occasion, he called me stupid for refusing meds when he wouldn't tell me what they were, and what they'd do.

I knew how it all looked to those on the outside. Of course the crazy person is going to resist treatment. No one in my family believed the place was bad. I had no one on my side.

I had a choice: accept the doctor's recommended treatment, or live on welfare. I chose welfare. But when I was released from hospital, I needed a place to go, or they wouldn't release me, and it was a Catch-22 because I couldn't find a place I could afford on welfare unless I had a stable base to explore from. It took a lot of convincing to get The Bumble to allow me to stay with him in the big house, even for a short time. He was extremely reluctant, and there was again that disgust and revulsion. I persisted, and he reluctantly agreed. I had one day to find a place. He dropped me off downtown and said I had a few hours.

And that's how I found the landlord I've mentioned elsewhere.

Dr Velvet Thong: And once you had your place, you helped him and his friends move their stuff on at least 3 occasions, for no pay?

Blinky: Yes. The following winter, I was the only one left in Winnipeg. Winnipeg is brutally cold in winter, I was not able to do what I had to to get a kind of 'work for the dole' thing, and at this time a cousin of Mama Smurf's had made contact with me, saying that if I came back to Toronto, I could stay with her and her husband, and she'd try to help me get a job and get settled, and work out my eating disorder issues.

And we all know the story, when I arrived, her husband was sick and I could not stay with them, and I ended up staying with The Bumble and Beany. They were living together, renting one floor of a large house. Beany and I were still close then, and she let me camp out on the floor of her room. I preferred that anyway - for more than a year in Winnipeg I had been living in a very 'minimalist' way: no bed, no furniture, very few possessions, no makeup, no fancy clothes, etc.

It didn't take long for that situation to become extremely tense. I knew The Bumble was worried about getting trapped with me again when he thought he had escaped. I had no money, no job, no connections, and seemingly no pride and no get-up-and-go. I didn't know what to do, and I started trying to figure out how to kill myself. I tried to go through options. I didn't have any good ones. My birthday was still special to me, and so I thought maybe I'd allow myself until my birthday to figure it out. So we had a birthday celebration this year, with everyone there, although I don't really remember it very well. I think there might have been too much underlying tension.

I don't remember if it was just before, or just after my birthday, but one night in the stairwell in that rented apartment, I had a kind of meltdown, not knowing what to do, and I started screaming. My siblings all got angry with me, and yelled at me, and Beany screamed back, saying she could be just as extreme as me. They were all mad, no one understood the position I was in, and no one had compassion for my situation. They were angry, and disappointed in me, like The Bumble, and that is the point when I started to feel disconnected from everyone, and it only got worse from there. Up until that point, and a little beyond, I could still say that I loved every member of my family, even The Bumble. At one point I called them 'You people', as in you people just don't understand.

Not long after my birthday, I voluntarily signed myself into a psych ward. I told The Bumble I planned to do it and he seemed relieved and agreed to drop me off. After waiting in Emergency for more than 3 hours, I couldn't wait any more and walked out, caught the first bus and went to the subway and called Beany to say good-bye, and the police stopped all the trains and came to fetch me.

And so then I had the two month stay, and was considered a good candidate for Family Therapy, and The Bumble, Beany, Cecil and Boo came to sessions for some time, until I was granted disability. My diagnosis was: long-term depression, anxiety and bulimia.

In some ways it was good for the family, and brought us closer, but in the end, I think no one really saw the problem as a family system problem. I had no idea how I'd pay the government back, or The Bumble. Family Therapy cost $50 for a session once a month. I think in the end, everyone thought the problem was me, that I was choosing not to accept help, that I was causing too much expense, that I wasn't worth the effort.

But consciously, I did not dwell on the negative. I knew that if I wasn't signed up for therapy or medication, I wouldn't be able to get disability forever, but I was ok with just having a bit of time to try to figure out what to do. I had romantic ideas that with a little time, maybe I'd meet someone, fall in love, and we'd go on a suicide holiday together. In practice, I mostly lived in isolation, not wanting to impose on people. My whole life revolved around my disorded eating patterns.

Unconsciously, there was a conflict. I think I believed I still loved my family, but I didn't feel close to them, or comfortable with them, and when I started seeing Gandhi, and he treated me better than any person had ever treated me before, I wanted him to be my family.

And the 'get a fucking job, you fucking loser' incident sticks in my mind, probably not because it was the only factor, but the easiest to identify. We got together for birthdays and holidays. It all became linked, this chain of events, the looks of contempt and disgust. Even sober for a few years, The Bumble was still the same. He hadn't learned. He still never said sorry for anything, he still never believed he did anything wrong, and he had everyone believing he was a hero.

It took me some time, but I started disengaging from family. I didn't think I had any beefs with my siblings; I thought they were all pretty good. I thought I accepted them for who they were, but that due to too much trauma, I just couldn't feel close to them any more. But I think that what happened was that over time, I didn't believe any of them really understood me. I didn't think any of them were capable of seeing through The Bumble's snowjobs when it came to me. They were following his lead: if she tries to talk about her problems, the appropriate response is anger, contempt, disgust, or silence/freeze her out. Don't dignify her crap with a response.

It's not that I couldn't see I was a difficult problem or that naturally it was understandable that they be angry, but it seemed like I had to try to understand everyone else's position to an extent that wasn't returned to me.

And then Gandhi built his social life around my family, and our relationship collapsed and I moved to Australia. Gandhi had been big on birthdays and holidays, and Don Quixote and his family were the opposite. They didn't celebrate anything. I explored that for a while, because I could see it was a perfectly valid philosophical stance. But, if underneath that, you know people are waiting for something and do not want to be as cynical as they seem online.. over time I planned things for special occasions for Don Quixote, and the truth is, I think he prefers that to a life without. I try to think about what he'd like, not what you're 'supposed' to do. And for my birthday, and for occasions like Valentine's Day, I'd come up with ideas, because it's easier for me than it is for him, but some years, I do wish someone else could take over that job. I accept, or I think I accept that no one will.

I know Birthday Chainsaw Massacre is harsh, and it might make people worry about any message they send me, but you have to see it in context. If a person puts effort into communicating with me in an authentic way, I'm ok with them sending me simple messages at times. Beany had demonstrated that she could not be 'real' with me, ever. She could not even acknowledge the effort that had gone into writing 'family skeleton dance party' the original email I sent her.

Dr Velvet Thong: I would hazard a guess that the birthday baggage also links back to the suicide attempt which took place the day after your 16th birthday, and the chain of events leading up to it, as well as the series of traumas that occurred in the months following. The original problems were never resolved, and more and more stuff accumulated in front of it all.

When was the last time you saw anyone from your biological family?

Blinky: I saw Cecil accidentally early in 2000 when he came by the apartment looking for Gandhi. I might have seen Boo and Cecil in 1998, I saw Beany and Beany Jr in 1997 at Grampa Smurf's 80th birthday party at The Old Mill restaurant. I saw The Bumble by accident in the summer of 1996 at the residence of Boo, Cecil and their girlfriends.

Birthdays and special occasions trigger all of this old unresolved baggage and tension. I don't want to spend my birthday dealing with it, feeling that the unconscious subtext is that my family are disgusted and embarrassed by me. I don't want to have to talk to anyone, even outside family, who I don't feel understands or respects me. I don't want to participate in reinforcing negative patterns or communication, eg, that birthdays and special occasions are the only times appropriate to get in touch with family, and then you have to keep things upbeat. I can accept that it's 'too much work' for anyone to get to know me or know how to talk to me (even though I tried to make it possible by initiating conversations with each member of the family on an individual basis), and I try to figure out how to spend special occasions in as positive a way as possible - usually on my own. For now, I still try to create special occasions for Don Quixote, or participate in them, organizing them, because while I live here, it seems like that is a contribution to his mental health. Although our friendship is dysfunctional in many of the ways my relationships with family are, he's put in a lot of effort to listen.

I haven't spoken to anyone on the phone since I've been in Australia. I last saw Sister Smurf and The Space Cowboy at Grampa's 80th birthday. Mother Bumble: my late 20s. Sister Bumble, not sure, maybe at 24 or 25 when Cecil's girlfriend met the family and was horrified.

Dr Velvet Thong: You said you recently had a dream about family that might be significant.

Blinky: The members of my biological family were holding me captive in an attic. They had all agreed on it. There was a plan to kill me within a certain timeframe. Boo was charged with making sure I did not escape before the designated death day.

At a certain point, I made a break for it. Downstairs in the livingroom, some law enforcement officials were talking about various young women who had either participated in crimes, or been victims, I'm not sure which. There was a crowd. One of the young women in question was a guest speaker. She had blond hair, was slim and looked good without makeup. Don Quixote was in the audience, enthralled by her.

I made it out into the backyard, with Boo in hot pursuit. A neighbour was visible, and I shouted to her, saying I was being held captive in the attic. I'm not sure of my wording, and I might have said something unfair to The Bumble; I wasn't sure, but in my distress, I managed to attract the neighbour's attention, and she came over.

At first it seemed like she was on my side, but then I realized she was only pretending to care. She didn't want to help me. What she was interested in was using the situation to gain power for herself.

When I copied the look on her face exactly, she knew I was on to her, and stopped pretending. It was like there'd be some all-out war.

That issue was not resolved, and then The Bumble took me aside. His look and tone were part Walter White in 'determined, merciless' mode, and part 'concern'. I was trying to figure out if he was honestly concerned for me, or if somehow he thought I was dangerous and had to be handled carefully. He told me the family had taken a hit out on me, and that it would occur sometime within the next two months. He then asked me if I had a dress, as if it was a prom dress for this occasion. I said no, and found myself wondering if two months was enough time to get fit enough. In a way, I was feeling very relieved that it all might be over with in 2 months.

Dr Velvet Thong: Eesh. It's probably for the best if you tell me how you interpret this, and I'll add my two cents later if I think it will help.

Blinky: Briefly, it's probably related to me feeling so much guilt about my manuscripts and transcripts of our sessions together. I'm the 'crazy wife/relation' locked in the attic. Everyone's afraid I'll burn the house down. Maybe it's better to make the choice to burn me alive, to 'use fire constructively', fire dreaming, to get rid of some stuff so the rest can get 'healthy', and in an unconscious sense, it could be that I think this is the best way to go, that I agree with it. When I think about living a life, I really can't imagine it. Even if people decided now to start trying to have regular contact with me, to get out of their comfort zone for my sake, there's no way it could help, or be enjoyable for any of us. I'm way too far out there, and not coming back. Maybe without me, everyone could feel a kind of relief. I tried to escape, but there's nowhere to go. I don't see 'friends' out in the world. I don't see any place I'd fit or be valued. Maybe I can't see anything to fight for, to escape for.

I think I had this dream because I continue to struggle regarding whether or not it would be a constructive or destructive thing to complete my manuscripts and put them out there.

Don Quixote isn't really paying attention to the drama in the attic. We're separate, not connected, in the same house. He'd be happy with someone who's a similar type, but less complicated, more attractive, more 'positive'. I can't count on him for help.

The Bumble is the one who is most aware of the danger I pose. He's had to reassess his earlier approach/conclusions. He has to be careful not to make the wrong move. I'm a worthy opponent. He's had to adopt a more 'serious' plan to deal with the problem. Everyone is on his side, no one is on my side.

Dr Velvet Thong has a weird expression on her face.

Blinky: It looks like you're reluctant to say something. Come on, spit it out.

Dr Velvet Thong: Well.. what if you're Jane Eyre (or Cordelia), and your family is trying to set you and all you stand for on fire? Burn down your house? They're the 'crazy ones' trying to keep you from forcing them to seek 'help' or 'enlightenment'?

I know you don't really relate to Jane Eyre, you sort of see her as someone clueless who doesn't know how to recognize a Player when she sees one, and who's willing to accept the dubious compliment that when a man loses his eyesight and everything else, then maybe they can be together.. and she was someone who accepted the brainwashing that said the wife in the attic is of course crazy, not someone a man misunderstood and treated badly out of a sense of entitlement, after first getting what he wanted, but not thinking about longterm consequences.. and that it all ties in to romanticizing these ridiculous period dramas in modern times without demonstrating that we've had any new advancements in psychological insight because we admire people who dress better, have better vocabularies and speak more politely to each other, even if they're just as, or more stupid than us.

Blinky: Are you saying that maybe if I stand up for myself, in the long run, I'm not less ignorant or prejudiced than Charlotte Bronte? And that's what my confusion about fire dreaming is? But her book was a necessary step; maybe mine could be too. I need to accept my limitations, accept that I am a 'writer', even if not a particularly skilled one?

That I have to be courageous enough to face that one day my prejudices will be exposed in turn? People still talk about Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover, but there's some pretty ugly racism in there, spouted by both romantic leads.

Dr Velvet Thong: Er, no, some of what you're saying is valid, but it's not exactly where I was going with this. I'm not sure you're going to like this idea, but what about making a decision not to edit? Finish the organizing you've already planned, put it into chapter form with a table of contents consisting of links to make it easier for others to navigate, but leave the content messy. It might read more like the disorganized rantings of a seriously disturbed person, someone who's 'not all there', but it might be more authentic, and sometimes when you just write without editing, there's something unusual that you manage to communicate. You don't have to conform to any rules; you are developing your own style here. I know you want to have as much control as possible, and you don't want to make complicated subject matter even more difficult for anyone to understand, but when you've tried your best in the past to make it all as 'clear' as possible, where has that got you? Maybe you're running out of energy, maybe you're 'deteriorating', well, if you've ascertained that you are the only person who cares about you, does it matter what others think, or even if it's true that you're deteriorating? You still have to find ways to fill your days until your death. Have fun with it, for fuck's sake! We've discussed before that putting something new out there is a way for you to 'go out in public, show your face'. In order to post something new, you always have to face a fear, and who knows, maybe this time there will be severe consequences. You may anger people. Wasn't that always the risk? From the start, when you started posting to, and then posted the first version of the Manifesto?

If people are too bored by you to read through things, then does it matter? You've 'shown your face in public' again.

What about Tyler and Tulip? Do you think they were represented in your dream? How do you think they'd react if you publish your manuscripts?

Blinky: I'm not sure. It could be that I didn't recognize them in the dream because I've gone to the original 'source' material, or it could be that one or both were represented by the neighbour. My conscious thought is that I'm super-easy to discredit, and they know it. Part of me thinks that maybe they like some of what I've written. It's hard to explain. It's like I've done it in such a way that they feel slightly better understood in life, but not in a threatening way. So as long as they know I'm easy to discredit, in a way they see what I've done as 'art', and they like that they've inspired some of it.

They might want to 'take credit' for some of my 'successes', but if you look at my pattern through the years, it seems that with or without them, I eventually get around to certain types of action.. house painting/renovation, travel on my own, occasionally contacting unusual individuals, and of course the writing, and other creative projects. That is not to say that their individual contributions haven't influenced me at all or that they're unimportant, and I'm not so cynical or mean that I'd dismiss them as 'interchangeable' with others of a similar ilk, that they were just the first ones I bumped into who fit a certain minimum of essential criteria. But, long before I met them, it does seem my patterns were established, and that they keep kicking in.

Ah.. but all-out war.. so, if I publish the manuscripts, I'm wondering if not only the original family will attack me as a group, but that also Tyler and Tulip will pool their resources as well, and in a way this stands for something bigger, that possibly the whole world will try to bring me down for standing up for myself, but in a way, I think that's what writers 'have' to do, to face this possibility when they publish, and that's part of what it means to be a writer.

'Copied' the look on her face, knew her intentions.. I think that means that 'psychically' I grasped a lot more than they ever expected me to, and wrote it all down, but oddly, it's like if I make myself more visible, their efforts to discredit me will make them more visible and 'powerful', if they manage to discredit me, so I've opened up further 'potential' for them in life to showcase their particular skills.

And of course consciously the surviving members of my biological family would think my unconscious feelings are 'crazy', and that they would never wish me harm, but this is how it works, when there are serious unresolved issues in a family, there's a primal interpretation you can't always just shake off. I don't feel connected to family, or life. I don't feel valued, wanted, understood. It feels like centuries, lifetimes of anger and silence extreme enough that my death is what is wanted.

Dr Velvet Thong: When you were young, birthdays and special occasions were the only times allotted for 'family connection'. They want to keep that up, and it feels like you broke it. And now, for you, it doesn't seem likely anyone can get through the walls. There aren't going to be any surprises. Not for birthdays or holidays, and on Valentine's Day, there won't ever be secret admirers.

The majority of those who kill themselves do not leave angry notes. It's a recognized phenomenon that most apologize, and try to make it clear the family does not deserve anything bad. Care to comment?

Blinky: I guess you're saying that it seems like I'm blaming family. I'm not as conscientious as other suicides. I think maybe I'm trying to cut through some of the ingrained political correctness or social training/brainwashing, in case it's helpful. People still don't really seem to understand mental illness very well, or suicide, and so while I'm still alive, doesn't it make sense that I try to describe the psychological landscape as best I can, in case it's helpful? In case it helps other families or individuals figure out how to support those who look like they're flailing before they develop into full-on monsters, like me?

I guess people understand that physical pain can lead to women giving birth cursing those who knocked them up, and from there I suppose it's not a huge stretch that other types of pain, too long prolonged, might result in unpleasant blaming and cursing situations. I would be happy to go away quietly, if only someone in the world, family or not, would give me a nice humane little suicide pill or bottle of Nembutal, anonymously dropped into my letterbox.

I think we veered a little off-course, but it was sometime after my 23rd birthday that I felt 'sure' I wanted to die. Before that birthday, I'd started having fantasies that if I went out in a lightning storm, I'd be hit and killed (er, at this time I'd been reading books about creative visualization and the like, and this was one of the things I started visualizing.. being struck by lightning, in as much detail as possible), and I started developing the suicide holiday fantasy, but after I was released from the psych ward, I began to drop lengthy suicide notes into the trash outside the social services building every time I went to pick up my money. Contracting herpes certainly didn't help the situation after that, but the events around my 24th birthday probably cemented the deal, and it took a little while for the fallout to reveal itself.

It's not that good things didn't happen after that, but from that point on, any new memories were dominated by the shadow my daily reality cast over it all. I was never comfortable in my own skin or with my 'place'. Every action I performed left me feeling conflicted. I wanted out. I was no longer really invested in life. My consciousness wasn't dull, but I felt I had crossed over into whatever death was, it was just that my body and consciousness hadn't accepted it. There was always something unreal about relationships, something temporary. There was never any authentic place to build from. Ah, that's it.. I didn't accept the terms and conditions, and refused to sign off.

And because I absorbed that The Bumble believed I had always been 'off', and that he passed that on to the others, and they absorbed it unconsciously and did not question it, I looked back over my existing memories, and saw myself as someone who never had a bright future, or any future. I was an ugly kid who wasn't smart enough in the right ways. I had never been worth effort or the trouble or expense I had caused. I was useless, and no matter what I would have gone back and tried, nothing would have worked. My destiny was to be something awful. I felt disconnected from my memories and my family.

When it came to the rest of the world, it seemed to me that photos of me and my 'resume' resulted in people having the same impression of me. Maybe everyone is right.

It would feel like a relief to just never have to be conscious again, to let the world just go on and think what they want. What good is consciousness or perception or insight if sharing just feels like crap? If no one likes me? And I don't really like anyone, either? It would be great to 'contribute' something, but I'm not getting the impression anyone thinks I am. I've stayed too long at the party and I'm terminally uncool.

And I can't get all indignant and say fuck you all, I'll show you all, I will survive anyway, I'll fight to the end, dammit. Because I get no pleasure in living. It would be an empty fight. It just seems to take so long to really know what that means, and to keep unearthing more layers and levels of it. But since I made the decision or assessment all those years ago, it doesn't really seem like anything has changed.

Dr Velvet Thong: I guess you're going to be camping out in my office again this year until the day is over. I'll make sure I get enough wine for both of us. We'll have the usual 'family skeleton dance party' together alone.

Blinky: Do you think people would understand that I wouldn't want to die or kill myself on anyone else's birthday - I wouldn't want to give them unpleasant associations with that day, I wouldn't want it to seem like a kind of vindictive statement, but also I admit that if people would be happy I'm dead, I wouldn't want to give them my death as a 'present'.

There are modifications, it's changed, morphed over the years, but the Ritual of a 'family skeleton dance party', for all birthdays and 'special occasions', is enacted over and over through all the years.. Blinky/Velvet must enact the same ritual, she must recreate the same conditions. It becomes something dark, and also something positive. It demonstrates some of the horrors inherent in the family philosophy and past, the flaws in communication and empathy, such that Velvet only feels she can connect when apart physically from her family, and such that she can only understand her place in her own family and how she has been treated by trying to understand the whole world, every family, every possible human situation and motivation, and if she can lift that, she will 'succeed', and sometimes, when enacting the ritual, that is how it feels, like a kind of success. But just as in The Plague, this battle must be fought over and over. A 'revelation' can be that as the need escalates, and Velvet 'really' feels connected to more of the world, every day is a family member's birthday, or some special occasion, and I suppose a step along the way or another layer is that she often does two days in a row, because that perhaps approximates Friday and Saturday nights - she is superimposing her own internal calendar over a two dimensional one.

The idea that it feels like being 'railroaded' when in contact with family to perpetuate the system. Both approaches are probably maladaptive, but Blinky can't go back to putting on a happy face for her birthday or those of others if she is not allowed to say anything except that things are fine, such that when family members talk to anyone they will just pass it on 'oh she's living in Australia, she's doing great, she's busy', and her life is summed up that way. She couldn't change the system from within in the past, and doesn't think she can now because everyone is still so invested in maintaining the system. It is only from without that she has a chance of helping them to see the system for what it is.

It's a bit like if someone is dealing with anorexia, and has an old-fashioned parent who just thinks it's ridiculous, and shouts at her to eat, and refuses to dignify the ridiculousness of it any further, and banishes her to her room until she's ready to be reasonable, and the situation just never changes, for years, the parent remains enraged, and the kid can't move forward. Blinky's parents both hurled primal rage at her that the others did not receive - or when it came close, Blinky tried to lessen the impact. But in being on the receiving end of that kind of primal rage, it does make sense perhaps that Blinky would attract those with anger issues and sadistic tendencies.

Blinky: They all think I have issues with aging/birthdays that are just superficial, not a PTSD kind of response. I lie once in a bar, when drunk and high on E that someone slipped me, amongst people I never expected to see again, and the Family think I habitually lie about my age and other things, and it haunts me the rest of my life, and becomes the explanation for why I'm weird about birthdays, because really, what else could it be? But I can't even broach the subject later because it's too much of an imposition.

Dr Velvet Thong: And all of this ties in with that Chrismukkah you spent alone, dancing, and enjoyed? It might have been the last time you had hope for yourself.

When you were 30, you'd had enough bad experiences in being open about yourself and your situation that it made sense to lie in the moment, in order to have a good time. Many therapists now do actually suggest the mentally ill lie or have a good story ready for public occasions when they have to have superficial, fleeting contact with others. In a bar, trying to shout over the music, it's pretty hard to say 'I'm mentally ill, I'm currently depressed and going without treatment, I have no excuse' - it just doesn't fit easily into the flow of conversation, and it makes sense that dancing was a form of non-verbal communication you could participate in, if you could deal with a few obstacles (making sure brief conversations didn't get too awkward.) It makes sense that you wanted some of the housebound years back, and that no one in your family seemed to understand how much time you'd spent without any plan or direction or hope for a future, because they didn't know what it was like to be without those things, or to spend time in isolation.

At what point did you decide to celebrate your birthday as the anniversary of the date you chose your new name?

Blinky: It occurred to me to do that long before I was able to go through with it, and I still struggle to get through the original day as if it's some kind of Doomsday. It's only been in the last couple of years that I've actually said I didn't want to think of my biological birthday as my birthday, and then followed through and pushed to celebrate it. Don Quixote accepts this, and that I want to celebrate the anniversary of the Choice. I guess it might come across as a further step toward distancing or divorcing myself from the original family.

It does seem to me that the original day would be a great deathday, that it would be like bringing things full circle, and in a way each year it's a bit disappointing that I don't manage to get things together and pull it off somehow.

Dr Velvet Thong: It is occurring to me that now that the 20th anniversary of the Choice is over with, maybe there's a kind of countdown to the next one, as if this is a whole new chance to 'fulfill the prophecy'? To die before you're 21?

Blinky blinks noticeably.

Blinky: Yes, and so I guess now time will tell. I feel pretty much like I've felt for years, that there's no way my life can continue, I feel like I just keep living right at that edge, but there is now a different kind/shade of fixation with that possibility.

I feel like there are projects to finish up, and I'm trying to focus 'positively'. I've managed to do a lot of the house renovations I put on the list. I managed to go out for a degustation on the chosen birthday, I've done a few more challenging things, for example, meeting an avant garde sustainable fashion designer in person. People can call me negative, they can say not going outside is about fear, but I'm not sure they get how complex I am, or how I do keep setting unusual challenges for myself.

I love the designer's clothes and approach, but I'm kind of nervous she might be embarrassed to be associated with me if I recommend her online/in my book/wherever. Aside from the baggage of the Manifesto, there's also the rather undefendable issue.. wearing a synthetic wig from China, (not to mention the synthetic beanie, also from China) when combined with the aesthetics and sustainable philosophy of her clothes might be a little like, or a lot like wearing a 'meat is murder' t-shirt while eating a steak, seemingly oblivious to the hypocrisy.. but it might be possible that all-round, my lifestyle might add up to more 'environmentally friendly' and 'ethical' than those who completely believe they are doing everything 'right'. And, there's still the possibility I might transition back to my own hair at some point when I overcome or am motivated to overcome the feeling of doom and hopelessness about it again. I mean, for the first time in my life, I have waist-length hair, in reasonably good condition. It hasn't been dyed in a couple of years, and has experienced no styling stress or products. I might just go crazy and bonsai it one day, but that possibility remains open, and another is that I decide on a maintable colour/highlights, just keep it long, let it drip dry and wear (more ethical) hats.

There's the possibility of making a possum documentary here, and I also have ideas for a Blinky/Velvet documentary, and who knows, maybe some day I will bite the bullet and try to get an online Psychology degree. Not to mention the whole 'night of the werepossum' thing. But, as always, I'd like to try to 'get out' at the right part of the cycle, maybe when finishing something up, and deciding to forego the future projects.

Maybe through meditation you learn to go through the process of getting to the best you fast, you centre yourself fast at all times, and maybe to some extent I can do that for periods. Don Quixote and I are getting along well, and despite all my bitching, I haven't been focusing on certain things. In the moment, I notice I go through the process fast, and I decide, I choose in the moment not to dwell, I think about what I'm aiming at, I can remember all the avenues my thoughts have gone down before with the same old issues, and I get to the least bad conclusion as fast as possible. In choosing to write some things down, that also is a choice: it's to demonstrate how strange and surreal, how extreme cognitive dissonance factors in my life, again and again, despite my efforts. It's astronomically absurd, but once I realize that, it becomes somewhat humorous. Maybe there will be an explosion at some point, but I seriously doubt I could feel self-righteous about it. If I lost it and said mean things, it wouldn't be long before I started trying to undo damage and refocus more positively.

I still behave as if I am ashamed of myself and don't deserve things.

Dr Velvet Thong: How was the chosen birthday this year?

Blinky: As usual, I don't have a simple answer. It was something of an 'accomplishment', and it was a effective, consciously chosen construction of contrast to daily life. I think overall it was 'positive', and that Don Quixote liked it, too, but part of what he liked was my positivity, and I really had to work for that.

Degustation is good because it's like you get a series of surprises, and if usually at dinner you have nothing to talk about, at least you can comment on each course and wine.

I suppose this is going to seem like a complaint that I should be addressing with him (actually, I did later, it came out when I just didn't expect it, and losing control like that has taken more off a self-esteem I could not afford to lose any more from, and in the end, it went how it always goes and just made me feel worse, fuck), but I think I've earned the right not to have to put either of us through that. I've addressed situations like this so many times, if I address it again, he'll feel bad, and pretty much nothing will change, so I think what makes sense is to use it in my 'writing'. I do think I am a writer, even if I don't write in ways that others relate to. I think I'm tuned in to some of the ideas and solutions other writers and artists are expressing. I accept that they are able to present their material in more palatable or inspiring ways. I am still somewhat 'connected' to this network of ideas, caring, solutions, I still have some access to it, I still perceive it. It might not change the fundamental direction or conflicts of my life, but I do think the feeling of connection or indirect understanding is something.

OK, so this is what happened on the birthday. I had managed to go without caffeine or alcohol for 7 weeks. On the day, I chose a special outfit, I did my nails, I wore a wig. Certainly our readers by now know all my issues with appearance and communicating through appearance. Well, when we went to get coffee and dessert, Don Quixote spent pretty much the whole conversation comparing the bodies of two young women who worked at the cafe. For a while, it was about the poor working conditions inflicted on the young in cafes, but the subtext remained and to me was more glaring. He was obviously prejudiced about the larger of the two, obviously attracted to the petite one with the nice figure, and after all this time, he still knows absolutely nothing about the science of physical fitness (evidenced by some particularly dense comments), and he's still completely insensitive to the issues all women, not just me, go through. I know he didn't mean to do it. The subject matter is probably just as difficult for him to grasp as calculus would be to some. It doesn't make sense to keep beating him up about it, so I made a decision not to focus on it. I did not get depressed, I chose to enjoy the day as best I could. I was already prepared something like that might happen, based on past experience, and so maybe I had sort of steeled myself in advance.

I don't ever expect him to say 'you look good for your age', because I understand that he thinks it's beneath both of us for him to lie about that kind of thing. It's a harsh truth, but the thing is that once you've gone past a certain point, looking good for your age doesn't really matter. All that matters is how you stack up to the highest standards of youth and beauty. Cold reality. But you can still be a nice, dependable meatloaf. Even though I wear wigs, he might actually think I'm aging badly, because he's seen plenty of Asian women who are still petite with very firm bodies and nice skin and hair, who are as old or older than me.

So that's not the problem for me. For me, the problem is that on a day in which I'm celebrating choice, and my individuality, when I have a website, when I've done so much writing and speaking about certain topics, on the day in question, even my best friend demonstrates all the same unconscious attitudes, and that he has zero ability to adequately encourage and support me, or even understand my message or unique individuality. But to say that, again, would be to spoil the memory of the 'good time'. So I will use it in my 'art'.

OK, it all sounds really awful, but maybe most relationships are actually like this, and I am actually glad I went out for my birthday. The cake I had was good, the coffee I had was good, and the wine matching at the degustation was fantastic.

Originally, we made the agreement to take the psychological step of agreeing to a 'salary', and that I'd pay room and board out of that salary, to help my self-esteem, identity, etc. Then, it seemed the only way to realistically move out eventually would be to save up, so the best way, without tax, was to give me the amount you could give as a salary without it having to be taxed, but then I go and pay almost all of it back because creatively, to 'do the house right' as a 'creative project', it seemed necessary for me to pay for things he was reluctant to pay for. People like me 'deserve' what we get. We make foolish decisions. We are bad with money. This is how people become homeless. I see all this, and I guess I still could not have made another choice. I had to do the 'creative' thing. There was some imperative there. And maybe underneath it, I am still trying to invest in his future over mine, because underneath it all I still believe he has a better chance or deserves more. I don't know.

Realistically, can I live on my own? Will I live to '21'? I know I can't build a life. I can maybe write, but my addiction will escalate again. I don't enjoy contact with people and that seems unlikely to change.

How far have I actually come? The person I'm dependent on still, despite all of my endless communication, all the risks I've taken, all the difficult efforts, doesn't really see my situation for what it is, and mostly accepts me in spite of my 'flaws' rather than thinking the uniqueness is something in itself, something more than a concept or a kind of gratitude based on something like 'cheer up, it could be worse'. What I mean is.. he's not a real vegetarian. It's convenient for now, and he likes some things about it, and he sometimes feels lucky, because he worries no one else could ever put up with him. But I am a 'real vegetarian'. I don't want meat or even seafood any more. When he's away from me, he eats meat. He eats meat on pizza, and if he was with friends who cooked, he'd eat meat every day, no big deal.

It sounds like a lot of bitching, but underneath it, I think I do accept the situation, and I think I do feel grateful for what I do have. I do think, though, that I am 'allowed' to wish for more for myself. More understanding, more compatibility, a deeper connection. I also wish for those things for Don Quixote. I think he has been deprived of some important rites of passage, and I do not begrudge him those.

Try to refocus, get the rest of the work done. Go on another trip, for his birthday. Make more connections, maybe a drug connection, marijuana, for sciatica and IBS. Maybe I can finish writing up these two projects, and maybe I will travel on my own again, and again have the opportunity to have a good death. Maybe the thing to do is to next travel to places where they do euthanasia lectures, Exit International, etc. I haven't been to doctors, but would the website count as something? I wonder, I suppose I could look into it. Would Dignitas accept someone like me?

I'm not sure I have the energy to force anything. I suppose in some ways my endurance has increased. I don't really want to live, but I have ways of getting through the days. For now, I can still trust that projects of various kinds will present themselves to me, and that somehow I can continue to cross things off lists while hanging from the ledge by fingernails. I just don't want to have to.

Blinky: I'm feeling very stressed about Valentine's Day.

Dr Velvet Thong: That's not exactly a new development.

Blinky: No, I think it's just a mutation of an existing theme. When I started finding it difficult to attend family occasions, it started with chrismukkah and easter, and spread to birthdays, and now I think it's also affecting Valentine's Day in a more extreme way.

Dr Velvet Thong: Maybe because now it's obvious that nothing's going to happen to surprise you. You're not one of the ones who inspires 'romantic' efforts in others.

Blinky: Many years ago, when I asked Don for a divorce, it somehow worked out that we mailed off the papers on Valentine's Day. I felt guilty about that, like maybe it was mean to him, and I realized that most people from a.s.h, and those we knew would think, in part because of their own assumptions/prejudices and in part because of what he wrote about me publicly, that I was some cold-hearted bitch who was incapable of appreciating what I had.

I didn't want to censor what he wrote online, but I knew at the time it was what he felt he was expected to do. He was new to relationships, he had no experience, and the pressure of people's expectations was a lot for him to contend with. Before that, he had written some humorous/cynical things about Valentine's Day that many people liked and complimented him on, but I guess from the start, those things worried me.

Dr Velvet Thong: Worried you?

Blinky: Well, I didn't think he was ready to be honest about who he was and what he really wanted. He cared more about public perception and being cool. When our relationship developed, it was in spite of such misgivings.

I never wanted to try to uphold a romantic myth to give other suicidals hope, but I found that when I would not do this, most others judged me. In a way, although it was really hard to do, I thought that having him mail the papers on Valentine's Day was the most caring thing I could do, for both of us. I was letting him know and also letting the world know that I did not intend to chain him to a romantic perception - he was still free, for 'the love of his life'. I didn't create extra baggage or hurdles for the next one to jump.

I knew that Valentine's Day and romantic love were important to him, and I knew also that I myself always was very aware of this day, and would always be wishing for 'something' or other. I suggested to him that we both admit this to each other and to ourselves, and that while neither of us had a new relationship, that on this day, we make an effort to support each other and invest in our friendship.

I came up with different surprises for him for different years, but most of the time, I realize it is up to me to come up with ideas. I decided this wasn't a bad thing, and if it comes more naturally to me, it doesn't make sense to leave it up to a guy to do it. So, usually, I will suggest we have coffee and dessert together. Sometimes we make a new dessert together, sometimes I send him out to a local bakery to pick something up. And I usually decide about what to have for dinner.

I usually do something similar when it comes to my birthday - I put effort into figuring out what I want to do, and I let him know.

Dr Velvet Thong: Any reason it's more difficult this year?

Blinky: It might have something to do with my 50th birthday last year, and it might have something to do with this thing I'm writing at present.

For his 50th birthday, I began coming up with ideas months in advance, and I planned a trip, one specifically that might hit a bunch of buttons all in one go. I knew that when mine rolled around, I could not count on him to come up with anything, so if I wanted something, I had to do like all the other times and clearly state what I wanted.

I think he did try to surprise me, I vaguely remember at some point he presented me with a cute little saw for my toolkit, but I think maybe we'll get back to the history of the toolbox momentarily, and for now I'll try to explain about the birthday.

[The history of the toolbox: it was a surprise, and he was proud of thinking of it, and getting it. A red and black toolkit, with a few red and/or black tools inside. A few times in the past, I had had trouble finding the right tools in the house when I spontaneously decided to paint something or do something or other. He didn't keep things in designated places and there was always so much clutter.

So he bought me some tools, but mostly cute ones. There was a paint tin opener, a measuring tape and a mini-spirit level, but no hammer, and no screwdriver. I mean, come on. It was years before I finally got those two basic items, but I was appropriately thankful, not wanting to discourage him from gift-giving altogether. I did actually speak up about both, but it still took years to get these two essential items. I was trying really hard not to be a complainer, and I tried to 'translate' it all in my head as 'He's trying hard to be romantic and thoughtful, don't discourage him now, don't scar him for life'.]

After his birthday trip, I completely lost control. I really hoped to get back in control by my birthday, and I just could not do it. I think I needed him to care about my birthday, to even say 'Is there any way we can talk now, until you get focused, because I really liked what you did for my birthday, and I want you to have something similar yourself'.

Dr Velvet Thong: It probably would have been good if you could have said that to him.

Blinky: I did. It wasn't enough to help, and he was willing to let the day go by. I guess it was a source of sadness for me. I had managed to go 9 1/2 weeks without alcohol or caffeine leading up to my 50th birthday, but then crashed a couple of days before the date, and then was just completely out of control.

But I was thinking that while our relationship isn't perfectly balanced, there are things he contributes that I know I can't, and so there's no sense in dwelling on what just does not come easily to him.

In books and movies, there are 'last straws' which cause people, sometimes with sadness, to accept that a relationship just isn't working, and more than that, that it just isn't healthy, and they've got to move on.. but when it comes to me, where is there to go from here? I do not trust that if I just leave I will find a place for myself. I have left many times, not in spite or anger, but trying first to do my best to clean up my mess, pack up my stuff, and then I leave and travel, looking for a place to die, or a place to go, and I run out of steam. It's kind of like that incident from my teen years, when my father was angry with my depression, there was that horrible physical altercation, and I broke free, I escaped, I ran a mile down the road in the pouring rain, in the mud, in my socks, and I climbed a tree and tried to think, but I couldn't see anywhere to go. And then when I left home at 21, not in spite or in anger, but thinking that somehow I had to get far away from my family, because they were not helping me..

Anyway, this year, aware of this pattern, and again having urges to just run, to get away from an unhealthy situation, I came to the conclusion that I had to accept the situation, and figure out if this time I could help him to understand more. And if not, to at least try again to contribute what I could here, to fix up the house, to address both our health issues, to put a lot of effort into figuring out what help I could realistically ask for, to accept I might always live in a very uncomfortable state, but that I didn't want to make his life worse, or try to take shots to take him down with me, and that if there was still anything I could contribute, to try to do it. And so I'm still struggling with that.

I made a long range plan to address the parts of the house that need addressing. We've taken a few steps so far. The roof's been done, and some months ago, I put something like 60 hours into catching up some cleaning issues, and yet more time into identifying what the priorities would be in the next years. [Eesh.. looks like I wrote this before the major effort which began in late 2017, and went on for months, with me often getting up at the crack of dawn..]

I said that once we had modernized the house and finally given him the boardwalk he's wanted all these years, then maybe he can support me through finally getting some cosmetic procedures, and after that, maybe I'll travel again, or try to move to Melbourne, and we will both try to be open to new relationships.

I have a bag that's packed, and theoretically I could just run one day, without addressing all these things, I could say I've done enough, and the best thing is not to think I owe more, when over the years he has inadvertently reinforced the messages from my family of origin by letting this situation go so long, that I should just go and not look back, but I know from experience that I do not have enough steam to keep going, and I'm likely to just enact the same pattern.

I've had contact with females over the years who have pretty much stated their greatest fantasy in life is not to have to work, and I realize my life would be their dream come true, and they seem to say that even when they want some relationships to end, they end up breaking down and crying and begging the other person not to leave them, and I guess many people probably think that no matter what I post publicly, that I'm like this, that I've begged my partners not to leave me, but I have never been like this. I mean what I say.

About Valentine's Day.. do I still mean what I say? Did I ever? Am I saving up years of grudges? I really don't know. I thought I tried very hard to address any hidden baggage and I tried very hard also to be realistic and to contribute to change and options. Maybe it's just difficult to realize that in life, I've always been a Beard. That's my archetype. And some men can get violently aggressive in keeping control of a beard, others can be hypocritically 'nice', and others can stoically live lives of quiet desperation. Do I want to acknowledge that maybe this year I want to throw a pity party for myself? I'm not sure. I think it feels something like all those years when chrismukkah would loom and I wouldn't be sure if I'd attend or not, and I would have no peace if I went or did not, and either way, there'd be major bingeing, and the only thing was to get past the fucking day already. Having a little shitfit and screaming about how no one really loves me isn't going to help the situation.

The Manifesto says a lot. Strangers may laugh or ridicule, but I think when people say if you're not ok, tell someone you trust or whatever, I think that means that family and friends are the ones who are 'supposed' to look at what I say, and make some kind of effort to help, and if they don't, who will?

And if the underlying philosophy is that I 'should' be intelligent enough, or should be enough of a feminist to work it out myself, and yet years are going by and my situation remains dire, I suppose 'family' and 'friends' can throw up their hands and say 'well, what can we do?' what it means is that I have been abandoned by them and perhaps I am within my rights to write them off, but er, where exactly do I go from here?

In my teens and early 20s, I still occasionally called people in times of distress, including an actual distress centre. When you realize that calling people only makes things worse, you stop doing it. There's no one to call, there's no one to write. And so what this is is a record of the process, a documentation of sorts. I must keep myself company as best I can, and if this record is ever found, who knows, maybe it will keep someone else company for a while.

There's a kind of pressure, I can feel a kind of pressure to 'hold myself together', to not fuck up the 'holiday' or 'important occasion'. With the situation in the house, with us not talking, but passing notes.. and no longer spending Friday nights or special occasions together, well, I realized that maybe I had to consciously try to change that, even if it was hard, because I was withdrawing further, and I was probably impacting both our mental health. So, even if it was unpleasant for my comfort level, I had to force it until it became routine again.. watch GOT on Friday nights, have dinner together.. but the pressure is astounding and I'm afraid it's like with other relationships, when I try to go back, the whole cycle is speeded up and I have to get the fuck out as fast as possible. When it's over, it's over.

It feels like so much pressure when I think I'm also doing harm, I'm also inadvertently reinforcing a really negative pattern in him. After all this time, I am reinforcing a pattern that was set in his original family. I must be a really poor psych student, but I guess it seems to me that in one way his family had really high standards as far as morals go, and when it comes to things like appearances, they were taught to disdain vanity, but Don's preference physically is actually for 'impossible' standards of beauty. And he feels like scum and tries to repress it, having grown up in a feminist, rationalist, whatever kind of household, and so the reason he was a 34 year old virgin was that he felt like scum who didn't deserve a loving relationship. He was some kind of deranged beast, but rational enough to know it's irrational to think of oneself in that way, and so he had to hide it from conscious access. Plus, I think actual bestiality runs in the family and they try to cover it up.

How do I address that dynamic without inflicting damage or making him too self-conscious? If I could only have quietly accepted my role as a beard, all would have been fine.

The one thing I am able to do is continue to let him know that I perceive the unconscious factors that might be affecting him, to let him know that I consciously challenge them, and am on an ongoing basis trying to figure out practical ways to help him address them. In effect, I keep letting him know that I believe he 'deserves' 'love'. This isn't something he has ever been able to return to me.

But in writing about my past, and thinking about the problem with holidays, and thinking about how I was drawn to a newsgroup called I don't think the way to address the current stress is to scrap the current project. I think I've crossed a line, and whether I scrap it or not, Valentine's Day is going to be a bloody fucking horror. I don't think it would be fair that I should have to die on Valentine's Day as a symbol of how forgotten and unloved I am or how undeserving I am that even family and friends would give a fuck about how I'm doing, but the extremeness of my addictive patterns, my binges would seem to suggest that at the very least my subconscious wants to make some kind of statement. Oh, and by the way, I'm going to officially state for the record that that whole amusing Easter Bunny thing Don is known for was yet another thing he started early not giving me any credit for. Half the fucking ideas were mine, ok, people? Including the one about making a statement.

Dr Velvet Thong: Blinky, you're losing it. She pulls out some mini bottles of alcohol and hands them over. Let's start with these, and get into more serious drinking later. I think you need to prepare yourself for some unpleasant news.

You have no talent as a writer. Zero. The problem is that you're too boring. But I'm paid to listen, and listen I shall. We can both drink, and we're both good drinkers, and that might make it all more fun.

Basically, I think your long-range plan makes sense, and don't worry, I'll sign off on the nip/tuck thing.

Blinky: I think now things are shifting a bit again, and I will probably make it through the day. Right now, what I see is that my task is to find a movie to watch that we can both stand. Music is a total write-off.

I suppose you might be asking yourself how hard can it be, when you watch movies all the time? What is it to just get through a couple of hours in the name of 'working on the friendship'? Surely there is enough compatibility there and it isn't really a difficult task? And compromise toward this end won't seem like a sellout?

But to give an honest, non-martyr, non-passive-aggressive message, and to aim at equality, something that could potentially be positive for both, and not about either party having to endure through the debacle, that's not a simple matter. I will know, if no one else does, if I am able to make a choice with genuine affection.

It is strange, the process of coming to terms with how 'real' a relationship is when so much of how my thought processes, memory, subconscious, and emotions fit together, how these fit in with how I spend my days and how I process life aren't really relevant to the person I live with, and that because we have communicated 'too much' and 'not enough', we know that we are alone in our experience when we listen to music or watch anything together, and I think part of my task is to help us to focus on other types of compatability, as a stop gap measure, for now, such that we are both less scarred by the effects and implications of despair.

I wrote this earlier, and then put some effort into working on the friendship, and part of that was working on the house, but there were other things, like making an effort to spend Fridays together again, and I think it's possible that this was like 'cleaning and reorganizing' and preventing the decay of the relationship.

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, and Everything Else I Don't Know Where Else to Put

Dr Velvet Thong: Let me get this straight - you are now divorced from Beany and Cecil, but not Boo?

Blinky: Boo has put a lot of effort into trying to communicate with me over the years. In the beginning, he admitted that he was embarrassed to even tell people he knew that he had a sister (well, specifically me, because I don't think he had a problem telling people about Beany.)

I originally tried to explain that my ongoing conversations with those who want to live ultimately don't work out longterm, because once the elephant has been identified, it goes around stomping on everything, and is kinda hard to ignore. I said that unless I make an effort to always steer the conversation to others and ask questions about their lives, it's pretty difficult to ignore that I feel like a terminally ill patient screaming in pain who everyone's ignoring. I mean, after that, how do you just go on from there and calmly talk about the weather? But I tried to find ways to work out how we could authentically communicate. Tarot readings and dream interpretations are good. Anything else.. Usually it ends up that I write too much and overburden him, and then I realize it's best to cool it for a while, and see if we can try again later, because he's probably going back to his original feeling that I am an overly negative person. One person can only do so much, and when it comes to me, I think he's doing more than his share, or at least so much more than everyone else that it seems that way.

Dr Velvet Thong: What was the relationship between Boo and The Bumble like?

Blinky: You mean, what mixed messages did he receive? The threat Boo posed was that he was tall and athletic and intelligent. When he was young, he was quite a daredevil. And when he saw how much pressure there was on me to be photogenic, his response was to always cross his eyes for photos. Oh wait, this has more to do with Boo and Mama Smurf, but let me get this down for now. This eye crossing would infuriate Mama Smurf, and she would refuse to put these photos in albums. She might actually have destroyed most of them. One photo in the album is fine for variety, but he did it every time, for a while.

But as for The Bumble.. Boo was the one he found was the biggest threat to his own identity. The Bumble was proud of being tall and athletic, and intelligent, and Boo was all these things, and much more photogenic, to boot. I think The Bumble wanted to undermine Boo as much as possible, and that Boo's survival instinct caused him to become as Jesus-like as possible in order to keep The Bumble placated.

I can remember this scene from childhood in which The Bumble was aggressively attacking Boo verbally for something or other, and Boo did not agree with The Bumble's assessments, and would not concede his points. The Bumble added physical violence into the mix, and even though Boo had tears streaming down his intensely red face, he still would not concede The Bumble's points. He was quite defiant, and his 'No's' were quite firm. At the time, I sided with Boo, but wasn't really aware of the option of being vocal about it.

I hope I've changed.

The year we lived in Brampton, Boo played on two rugby teams, one with 7 players and one with 15. The Bumble had been a rugger player, the only one on his team to play in every game of a North American championship, which they won.

Both of Boo's teams won the provincial championships, and the 7s were planning to go to Wales the following year for some big tournament.

The Bumble did not factor this in to his decision making when he decided to move us to the Beaches, for a relationship that lasted less than a year. Boo had a talent, and he didn't think it was important to support him in the development of it. Yes, Boo played rugby in other places, but in Brampton, he had found the 'right' team, and that is part of how people develop their particular talents.

Also, for most of his life, Boo had played hockey, and was quite good at it. I'm not sure, but after Mama Smurf's death, his hockey playing might have been disrupted, and rugby might have become more of a focus. He was also a good basketball player.

For the move to The Beaches, we also had to get rid of all the pets (3 dogs and 2 cats), and Beany's dogs were her most important support system, at a time when we had all been through a lot.

It's just not very impressive, how little he invested in any of our futures, how little thought he gave to it.

I'm not sure, but maybe Mama Smurf's bf had some impact on Boo being drawn to horror genres. I think he was the one who taught Boo to chase down toads with the lawnmower and laugh to see the splatter and hear the thwump. And when baiting a lure for fishing, to sing:

Had a little minnow and the head! popped off!

And to flick the head off with his thumb at the crucial moment.

Also, maybe Neil had told Boo about some of his experiences, Secret Guy Business, that sort of thing. He started teaching Boo to drive when he was 11, but not me. I only remember one thing: he had this job or experience once when after a car accident, he had to remove a decapitated head from the backseat. Boo might have received more of the details than I did, or heard about more experiences.

After seeing him beat his dog Shiloh with a board, he just had so much rage in him, I didn't think it was impossible that he could actually kill a dog. I wanted to comfort the dog, but all the beatings made him scary, and I always tried to talk to him from a distance away from where he was chained in the yard. I kind of hoped he liked me, but I never knew for sure. And I'm not really sure what happened to that dog. I only know he didn't move with us to the place near Manitoulin Island.

Also.. there was this incident that might have affected us all. Once we moved to The Armpit of Ontario (before all the recent Pollution Progress Initiatives), to vist relatives or The Bumble was about a 5 hour drive, give or take, depending on conditions. Sometimes we were all piled into the stationwagon (you know, the usual green and brown plaid thing we see over and over in movies), and sometimes the 4 of us were herded onto a Greyhound or Graycoach, I'm not sure which. [Just some trivia.. the first year we lived in Sudbury, I did this science project about pollution and its effects longterm and I was really quite proud of it, and it might have been one of the things that resulted in the recommendation I skip Grade 6, I mean, in addition to writing and illustrating the book about the crime solving cat, and getting overall good grades.]

One of the times, on the way back from Toronto in the stationwagon, just outside Sudbury, there was a massive car accident, with a few casualties. We drove by it slowly, being directed by police. The bodies were still on the scene and there was blood, there were smashed vehicles, but I can't rememeber specifics, I only remember the feeling of horror, and that I felt sick to my stomach, and I felt that way for days, it just wouldn't go away, and on the radio during the week, they'd sometimes have updates, like when another person died. Maybe Boo saw more than I did, and the images implanted themselves. I think probably I was afraid to look, but also, I wasn't prepared for anything like it, although we made the trip a lot of times, and especially in winter when remote stretches of highway were slippery or visibility was poor, it was always a possibility. Plus, there were always reports of people's cars striking moose, and later, I heard a story about how Gandhi's cousin had struck a moose, in a small car, and been seriously injured. And once, with Gandhi, late at night, there was an occasion where I probably could have touched a moose if I'd put my hand out the window, we were that close to one, and going highway fast, in the Tracker. Fuck association, I'm getting off topic here.

I think it's possible that my instinct, rather than one of curiosity, was that as soon as I saw blood on the snow, and human bodies lying about, I cowered down into the stationwagon, and tried to block it out. I don't know if the younger ones were sleeping through it or not.

Blinky: I fought the labels The Bumble attached to all of them. I confronted him, when I was 16, when he tried to get away with undermining any of them, and for good measure, after such tense situations, I would seek out the sibling/s in question, and state as clearly as I could, that what The Bumble had said was not true, and that I definitely did not agree with it.

Dr Velvet Thong: How did it make you feel a few years ago, when your sister wrote that the family had 'always accepted you, exactly as you are'?

Blinky: It made me feel the situation was hopeless. I thought it highly unlikely she'd ever understand me in this lifetime. My translation of that statement was something like 'Eating disorders are silly, self-image preoccupation is ridiculous, snap out of it.' Or that that was one of the unconscious implications, and that mainly, because she identified as a good person, and good people aren't prejudiced and don't let stigma affect their relationships, then obviously all of them had always accepted me. Without meaning to, she was saying that all my stress and worry was for nothing, if only I would have realized they had always accepted me. But I tried to keep an open mind, and then I sat down, and wrote the first Family Skeleton Dance Party email, to see if I could find out more about what she really meant.

I do think that most of the negative reinforcement was unconscious. My siblings were young, and didn't realize that because there was no one in the family to challenge the belief that I was too fat, ugly and stupid to leave the house, that belief was profoundly reinforced over time. However, as adults with more life experience, they still didn't seem to understand the situation.

Dr Velvet Thong: I'd like to see if we can draw some parallels between your role in the family of origin and your role in relationships later in life.

Blinky: Some types of criticism really stick in people's minds, more than praise or positive statements. I guess in some ways I learned how to see 'holes' or weak spots, and my instinct was to try to address them. I think I would instinctually sense that some of the positive reinforcement I gave people had to be repeated, and that I had to find more than one way to express it. I realize that just repeating something doesn't necessarily help - some types of damaged self-esteem just can't be addressed with compliments. Part of seeing the 'holes' relates to having a sense of what practical activities a person most needs support to accomplish. It means having a sense of their abilities and figuring out where to give them a push or encouragement. It would in a sense be like being able to spot what parts of a house need to be addressed before rot spreads, or termites, or mould, etc, before the foundation crumbles. I wasn't as good at doing this for myself, because I couldn't accurately assess my own abilities, I couldn't override what I thought I had to be to 'deserve' love, and I had no sense of entitlement to having any resources invested in me.

I had to be able to see my beliefs before I could even begin to address them. And even now, it does seem to me that factoring in all the different people in the world, and their stories, their abilities, do I really want to fight to stay alive? Maybe other people are more deserving. Maybe the world is better off without me, or maybe there is nothing I really have to say or to contribute.

When I began to approach people online, I did have a certain pattern. I would be trying to say something, just 'in case' it made a difference. I would try to do it immediately, because I could die any day, or they could. I would realize I couldn't do much, but I'd try to address at least one hole. When I wrote to Don Quixote, it was at a time when he had little or no support on a public newsgroup. He was expressing controversial opinions I agreed with. I let him know I agreed with him.

With most people, there was really no reason for suspicion, but inevitably I would become uncomfortable in my role. I would realize when I was trapping myself into continuing certain behaviours. I would realize that I myself needed someone to see my 'holes' and offer suggestions. Gandhi repeated a lot of 'positive' reinforcement, but could not see what sorts of practical support were necessary, and so he inadvertently reinforced a negative self-image. Don Quixote was not much for the repetition, but by then I was better at articulating how to encourage and support me. I was able to see my own holes. Unfortunately, although he's an extremely intelligent guy, it was like even though I articulated things clearly, he could never remember what I'd said, whether it was spoken, handwritten, typed, whatever. It was like he needed some outside Authority to validate my conclusions, in order that what I said could finally sink in. So we've reached a stalemate, and he continues to repeat behaviours which unfortunately reinforce a negative self-image, and added on to that, the feeling that nothing I say registers or matters.

Most people, even the suicidally depressed, had more possible connections to life to explore than I did. My holes were pretty big, and most of the people in my life were looking the other way. What I had left, what I fought to keep, a basic 'decency' and caring, to share what I had, whatever it was, right until the end, to 'help' others if possible, an unsual pattern-spotting ability, an unusual memory or mnemonic system, a kind of hope that some kind of intense connection could still form - was something without real quantifiable value to those in my life, or to the world.

And later, I still struggled with this. I could see so many people who were so angry with parents, with former partners, with step-parents, employers, with people they believed were bad in a black and white kind of way. I just couldn't relate. It always seemed so much more complex to me, and when I met any person, I could never see them in black and white ways, and it didn't seem I had ever encountered anyone who would purposely try to harm me. I even thought I might be 'lucky' to have the parents I did - that while they were immature and had inadvertently harmed me, at least I didn't have to deal with full-on animosity/hate/abuse. Maybe it makes sense that in inheriting this kind of extreme philosophy of 'understanding', including that I would have to be understanding about my personal neglect and abandonment by family, that I would ultimately have to face the logical extension of these beliefs if taken to the extreme.

Blinky: The ways things are now, you can colour someone's impression of who someone is and what their credibility is if it turns out they have any racist tendencies. But when I was a kid, most people were racist, and not just the mild unconscious kind.

So if I relay incidents in which Neil expressed overt hostility toward black men in Alabama on a family trip, and grumbled about them and said ugly things, it maybe prejudices the audience against him unfairly, or makes them read the other details differently, or read more into them.

Based on some of Mama Smurf's reading material, I don't think she shared his racist views, but I don't think she spoke up about it. That's what most women did in those days - they took the whole package, and they accepted the things they didn't like.

I also want to mention that I did consciously struggle with my dislike of Neil. Was I close-minded, unfair? I really don't think I was conscious the way kids are now of injustice, but I also don't think I was like most kids in movies now who are automatically prejudiced against any new Signficant Other of their parents'.

I first remember seeing him in Grampa and Babci's kitchen. He and Mama Smurf were kissing in a very 'sexy' way, and it made me feel uncomfortable. It was during our parents' trial separation, I guess during the summer I was 7, between Grades 1 and 2, but when they separated, I remember consciously believing it was 'for the best', because it really seemed they fought all the time and were miserable together.

They separated for good when I was in 4th Grade, but I'm not sure exactly when. I remember I was too embarrassed to talk about it at school, and I also at a certain point began acting strangely. I made up lies about my skin to explain why it was weird, I 'fainted' (during a breath-holding contest in the gym), and when I had to give a speech, I put my head down on my desk and exclaimed 'nobody likes me'. Maybe I thought my parents didn't like me. I don't remember exactly when it was, if it was before or after the trip.

For a while this year, The Bumble took us for judo lessons, except not Beany. I'm not sure how many times we visited him at the luxury building. But at March Break, we went on a road trip with Mama Smurf and Neil to Florida. Maybe it was a way to introduce us, get us to like him. And some parts of that trip were memorable, and one memory is one of my best from childhood, getting up early, collecting shells along the beach at Gulf Shores. But during that trip, there was also extreme tension in Alabama when he acted abominably toward some tall black men who didn't appear to be looking for any trouble. And on that same trip, the incident at the movie theatre, when I was uncomfortable about having to sneak in the back way, he was trying to do something nice for us, get us all in for free, and everyone pressured me such that I had no choice. Are those things 'enough' for me to have a valid reason to dislike him before he abused my cat or his dog or my mother, for me to distrust him from the outset? And when my own mother could not stand up for issues she herself believed in, how could she feel such rage for me 'taking my father's side' moving in with him? I know he brainwashed me now, and from age 12-16 I know I did complain to best friends about my mother and that it was unfair, but in some ways it was valid. She was not setting a good example herself. In some ways, I was more mature and reasonable than the adults in my life, and the ways in which I was not were things over the years I made efforts to shake off, change. I had to be able to identify them, and in some ways it was probably necessary to get out of the family muck in order to do it. And that's part of what that whole leaving home to 'find people more like me' was about. It was like I was the only one who could see it, yet I was labelled the one who 'ruined everything'.

He hadn't won me over, and I was the only one given a kitten. I guess that was the next attempt. As far as I know, I was basically pleasant, not rude to him, but I simply would not pretend I liked him. And so I get him taking me aside, trying to fix this situation, trying to win me over with reason, trying to suggest that I read How To Win Friends and Influence People, and now, it seems funny, and I wonder how unfair I might actually be, if maybe I'm rewriting the details so modern audiences would be familiar with it all. Maybe I focus on the bad, and don't remember the good, maybe I have incentive for my own ego's sake. But for me, there was constant tension in that household. And my account of the situation would be seen by the others as proof of my negativity and how I do in fact ruin everything. Am I brainwashed by modern thinking? I can say that I lived in a state of tension, and if I was unfair, I was not mature or experienced enough to snap myself out of it. But it does seem to make sense that not really being clear on all this had some effect on my development, not knowing how to identify when people are behaving badly, when I deserve to be treated better, or if I am being open-minded 'enough'.

Maybe there's a major whitewash in movies about that era, something that edits out how racist everyone was, and how much women put up with without complaining. Not to mention how much incest and wife abuse took place. And in high school, how many boys behaved extremely badly toward females. The guys in the hallway, shouting things out, the guy on the bus, bombarding me with his Hustler litany, the guys in the car, laughing, different guys at the back of another bus, sticking a protractor into another girl's leg while she slept and they were laughing - I had fallen asleep too, but I woke up, and I saw what they did, and did nothing. That's something in my history I'd change. She wasn't a girl I had ever talked to at school, but she had a 'reputation'. Why hadn't they done that to me? Was it because I was a 'different' kind of girl at that point? I don't know. It could have been because one of the guys was on my regular bus and it was easier with a girl he had less contact with. The guys who wait for a girl to get drunk and pass out - not just the ones mentioned, yet more again. A group of Grade 3 boys at a different school, a whole class of them, holding me down in the snow when I was in Grade 8, all the guys trying to grab my ass or slap it, not to mention the kiss and the picture taking incident. And one of my most signficant relationships with someone who made a bet with a group of guys he could fuck me before the end of summer? It wasn't really that I was drawn to 'bad boys'. They were much, much more persistent, and you had to say no, over and over and over (even after trying to break up). I did go out with one nice guy, another I would have if he hadn't asked me to a pool party at the beginning of summer before I had a tan, and another I would have gone out with if he hadn't led with 'will you go with me?' But my communication skills weren't developed enough to express these things. And I think a couple of other nice guys might have been gay (but I did go out with them). With the first nice guy, I do still admit it was fun to see the look on the girl's face, my best friend's other friend, who hung around with us, she was gossiping, saying 'OMG, did you hear, someone's going to the Fair with Nerdy McNerd?' and I found it really fun to look her directly in the eye, and say 'That would be me.' I admit that I liked shocking her, but even though she was the one who was afraid of missing her curfew and left me in the field, that was not something I held a grudge against. I really believed I deserved it, or I didn't really see what else they could have done. I had put them in an impossible situation. A year earlier, when she and my best friend were singing Macho Men as a guy who had a crush on me walked by, I hadn't the nerve to do anything except walk away from them in disgust and refuse to talk to them (for only a few hours or the rest of that school day), but a year later (10th Grade), I was able to take a stand. And still, I know in a lot of ways I was not even remotely assertive or admirable. At least not yet. Going through the history, am I rewriting it, exaggerating, inflating? Was I 'really' as 'shy' and 'quiet' as I thought I was? Was I partly beaten into submission by the reactions of parents, authority figures and peers? But many people did comment on how little I spoke, and how easily I blushed. I remember always trying to read what other people liked, in their gestures or speech, such that I wouldn't say the wrong thing, be inconvenient, put them out. I never actually knew what I wanted to do, or eat, or anything, I wasn't in touch with it. My eating was weird, I was out of control and I needed guidance. And that had something to do with why I let other people make choices. I knew there was something fucked up about mine, and I wanted things to change. My 'routine' wasn't a routine and it wasn't 'healthy'. I was ready to start from scratch. But maybe also I was unconsciously worried about 'ruining everything'.

Something funny, or funny in a sad way, maybe.. the guy they sang Macho Men to was a little older than me and liked me when I was in 9th Grade. The first day of school, me in a new town and school, he let me sit with him on the bus. He was smart and in 11th Grade already knew he wanted to be an architect. Well, after he called the house for me once, Natalie and The Bumble would make fun of him, and made up names for him, and when he and a friend rode by on horseback, maybe to get a glimpse of me, the two of them called out these rude names to him. I was so embarrassed, and angry, and felt powerless, but not socially adept enough to stand up to them or to apologize to the architect and his friend. It was like the adults in my life behaved like teenage girls. I'm not sure it's obvious here, but perhaps without meaning to, by making fun of kind, nerdy boys, and supporting those like Truck Driver, they might have had some influence on my selections in the early years.]

The Bumble was a little better than Neil when it came to the race issue, and got the point of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, but he was still uneasy. But part of that point means the guy can understand because he's experienced true love. If you love him the way I love your mother.. etc. So he'd never had that experience. And where he grew up, I don't think he met many African-Canadians.

Blinky: I probably need to describe a humiliating incident for The Bumble, because I think it possibly relates to undiagnosed bowel issues in the family, including the stomach problems I had in high school.

I think he had gone out to a work dinner at an Indian restaurant, and it was his first time trying Indian food.

Most of the time, he couldn't eat really spicy things. He sometimes liked hot Italian sausages, especially in a homemade chilli con carne he made - but I don't think he liked chilli overly hot. It could be that he always had bowel issues of some kind, something undiagnosed, or mild enough that it didn't really require any intervention.

His sister had Crohn's. At age 11, legend has it that she was obese, tipping the scales at 180 lbs (maybe that was an exaggeration), and then she got sick and after that, she looked like a normal weight person. Everyone glosses over this, and I think that says something. Why was she that weight? Was it a genetic thing? Females on The Bumble's side of the family tended to be taller than average, but that's not enough of an explanation. Their adopted female cousin was also obese. To me, this possibly hints at some patterns in Mama Bumble and her sister that are specifically related to female daughters, and it might have something to do with how hard it was for me to control my food intake when I moved in with The Bumble, some weird pattern in the family that I absorbed. Some pattern in family relating, or maybe it even relates somehow to surviving The Great Depression.

It could also be that when I had stomach problems in high school, and occasionally later on from time to time in stressful situations, it is related to yet another mutation of one of these problems.

It seems likely The Bumble had IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), but that for most of his life it was manageable. In later years, he didn't want to go on long drives from Northern Ontario and back, and he had never liked to travel by plane. It sounds like his main issue was diarrhea.

It seems like if I have IBS, for me it is predominantly pain-centred, although it can alternate with diarrhea and mild constipation at times. What that means is that the pain is the most significant feature.

The first time I experienced it, I was 14. I asked to go to the school nurse. I laid down for a while, and in a few hours? or maybe less than an hour, I was ok. I joined phys ed class in progress.

It was most horrifically bad for the first time at a neighbour's house. We were there for dinner, and something felt so badly wrong that I said I needed to go to a hospital. But, because the emergency doctor couldn't find anything, and subsequent barium exams didn't reveal anything, the whole matter was dropped, and I was told to keep a bottle of PeptoBismal in my locker - when I had symptoms, it never helped at all.

The first really bad experience occurred at Goat Girl's house.

At 5 years old, that kid already had a 'rep' as being wild and crazy. She runs with goats. She gets her goats to do her bidding. Sometimes they attack her parents. She's not docile like her sisters, but she's easy to control in another way, she's the easiest to have committed.

She had many sisters, all pretty, with long blond hair and blue eyes. The Bumble told us about Goat Girl, implying she was already 'psycho', and that the other one we were to meet was exceptionally dimwitted. And I admit, that because in those days I still respected him, I initially took his word for it, but then began to feel embarrassed when my impressions of Goat Girl and her sister did not match up to what he said. I liked them, and even thought they were quite bright.

It was a rather unsettling experience, and it might have been one of the messages it was hard for my brain to accept or process. For a year of my life, or more, I longed to move in with The Bumble where life would be better and not stressful, and I did like being an only child, and having my own room and not having to go to church, and I liked hearing rock music when getting ready for school at 6 in the morning.. but I think part of my 'depression' might have been about understanding some things instinctually that I didn't yet understand consciously. The Bumble was one of those men who was OK with superimposing labels and identities onto young, defenceless girls. He was ok with trying to control their destinies or how others perceived them. And if he didn't know he was doing it.. yikes, that's not so flattering, either, and it doesn't suggest much positive parenting ability, doesn't inspire trust.

Blinky: When I visited their house one night for dinner, with The Bumble and Natalie, I couldn't stay. I had a stomach ache so bad that I thought I was dying and I asked to go to the hospital. I wasn't a complainer.. I didn't have that history as a child, but when people don't know you, they start to make assumptions, and I think probably people still don't know that it was really, really bad for me to even say anything at all.

Then they all came over for dinner one afternoon. The father got drunk, and took a nap on the sofa in the rec room to rest up before dinner, sleep it off. Goat Girl stood up on the sofa and started kicking him repeatedly in the stomach.

Blinky: Which links to another memory.. K-Pru. (K-Pru had a teddy bear named J. Alfred Prufrock.)

K-Pru threw The Bumble a party for his 45th birthday. I was 20. I was housebound at the time. I cleaned the house, baked some cakes, prepared some massive salads and other assorted snacks, and put a lot of effort into my hair and makeup. It was during one of my long housebound stretches.. one of the only times I had contact with the outside world.

All the dirty old men there insensitively commented on how wonderfully I was turning out (which had zero to do with my food prep skills), the typical crap, in front of their wives and significant others. I came upon K-Pru and one of the country Enabler wives cackling together about the wonders that can be achieved with makeup. I smiled politely, and left the room, trying to put myself in their positions. I resolved to be more compassionate toward all women, and to try to continue that no matter how long I lived.

Dr Velvet Thong: How's that working out for you?

Blinky: I Want To Believe! in the goodness of women.

Dr Velvet Thong: Trust no one.

Blinky: So much male behaviour with females is just good ole boys, ropin' a doped up calf. I guess women have a somewhat better chance when other women are in the room, but I'm not so sure.

In later years, when The Bumble got back together with K-Pru, and they got a place in Northern Ontario, this couple had retired up there, too, so I guess they could all hang out and commiserate about the hardships of parenting bad/disappointing kids.

Basically, I looked like not only a whiner, I looked like what no one in the country admires: a highstrung, 'nervous' kid.

I think I tried to do my own relaxation exercises, and it did include daydreaming about sex, but I think so much effort went into that that I couldn't concentrate in school. It didn't affect my grades much the first year I started to have stomach pain, but by the second it was getting harder. I was also trying to control excessive sweating. I did have success with controlling both, although occasionally they snuck up on me. I could usually sense that beforehand, though, and on certain days, I would try to wear something that showed sweat less, and was looser. But I 'needed' to have days when I wore flattering jeans and tight things, to help balance things and not totally lose hope.

I may have underestimated how stressful it was to be both sexually harassed, and also to feel internal pressure to be as attractive as I could be, in order to be 'successful' overall. If we factor in massive guilt because I wasn't able to control my food intake very often, and that no authority figures seemed to take my discomfort seriously, including The Bumble who just let it all drop, and perhaps conveyed that he was embarrassed by me being so silly about it all, and we factor in the other issues already described, I think it makes sense that I had concrete reasons to feel depressed and increasingly hopeless, to the extent that when I asked to see a psych and nothing came of it, I acted out and was forced to get treatment and when antidepressants didn't work, I didn't think there was any help for me. I had to be stronger, more in control, and I couldn't. My self-esteem was zero, I couldn't see a future for myself, and even though I didn't want to die, I had exhausted my options and resources. And, that The Bumble progressed to being actively enraged by me, the chain of events begins to make more sense.

When I stopped leaving the house, I had very few episodes, and through the years, they ended up being isolated incidents only - once every couple of years, during a period. There would be diarrhea, vomiting, fever, but the pain was the most significant feature. It would only last one day, and the worst of it was about an hour. After, it would be like I had an endorphin release, and combined with Tylenol, I'd have an extremely restful sleep.

I was usually trying to figure out if my distended stomach was full of gas or acid, and I guess it sort of feels like both, but 'de-gas' pills and stuff to absorb acid don't help. I've usually had bowel movements each day even when it's occurring, and it doesn't really help with the pain (whether diarrhea or normalish stools). I think it does feel like the intestines are inflamed, raw. The pain of this can increase or decrease, but it mostly stays at the same level for extended periods. The really painful part is the cramping. It's not really a quick spasm. It's like a long contraction and the pain builds to a peak and then releases, but not to a painfree state. And it keeps continuing. Sometimes the cramps are constant, and sometimes they only come once in a while. It seems like it has to run its course.

In recent years, when I attempt to quit drinking, I've had the longest episodes ever. They've lasted anywhere from 1 week to 1 month. It can get so bad that taking paracetamol with codeine, buscopan and ibuprofen all at once is not enough to make me comfortable, and I can't do anything but lie in bed. I can't even sit up to watch tv, and I don't watch lying down because the pain is too bad to concentrate. I just have to wait.

I guess it makes sense that the pain might be excessive because somehow the nerves are getting the wrong info, but the last time the pain was severe enough I suppose that it's possible to imagine that things are perforating and the abdominal cavity could fill with horrifying bacteria, or it feels scary enough to wonder if the bowels are somehow dying. I 'should' have gone to the hospital, but because I can't trust health practioners to treat me with compassion or to believe me, I couldn't consent to go.

In order to get a diagnosis, it seems that I'd probably have to go in somewhere when experiencing symptoms, and that is probably the time I'm least likely to go voluntarily. Aside from that, before or after, I'd have to give a history, and go for the various tests to rule other crap out, tests I'd find humiliating. So, it looks like I'm pretty much fucked. I am going to have to try to figure out how to manage my symptoms on my own, or just wait for the catastrophe. Neither seems like a very good plan. My best idea: to try to find a supply of medical marijuana, under the table.

If The Bumble was affected, and his sister, and possibly me, who else? Mother Bumble never wanted to travel, but I'm not sure if she had any issues. She told me about a brother of hers who was apparently like me in that he didn't really leave the house. She seemed sympathetic toward him, as if she had absorbed he wasn't faking something or being lazy, or whatever. 3 kids with ichthyosis, and luckily only one with bowel issues?

What if all along, my primary diagnoses were not depression and anxiety, but ichthyosis and some kind of bowel disorder? (Er, and addiction/eating disorder.) And since doctors and parents didn't understand the conditions or their impact, I had even less control over my own life than just in being a kid with parents who fought in extreme ways, were kind of immature, and was struggling with the curse of non-photogenicness?

It would definitely impact identity if you yourself think something is serious, and you ask for help, and the lack of something concrete to focus on results in those you know respecting you less. It would impact self-esteem.

Dr Velvet Thong: You were saying something about an incident?

Blinky: The way he told the story, I knew it wasn't funny to him. It had been a seriously humiliating and horrific experience.

Driving home from the Indian restaurant, he began to feel uncertain he could hold it until he got to a toilet, and this feeling got worse and worse and he tried harder and harder to hold it in, and then..

There was an explosion of such force that diarrhea actually came out from under his shirt collar. I imagined this with horror, and also details like 'did he take his suit to the cleaner's and how would he have explained it, or did he just throw the suit away?' I wondered about what the cleanup must have been like, including in the car, but I don't think he had any of the fancy expense account company cars yet. It had happened before the Chrysler, and it might have just been cheap vinylish seats. Ack, and I should probably say Mama Smurf's car was the stationwagon, and he had another, but I can't remember it, and before that they had a little baby blue Volkswagen Beetle, which wasn't practical as they kept adding to the herd.

In later life, when he moved to Thunder Bay in Northern Ontario, he was more and more reluctant to go on long drives, and it could be that he didn't want to risk being without a toilet for too long.

When I was a kid, and I knew the drive from Sudbury to Toronto was about 5 hours, I would try not to think about having to pee, but of course trying not to think about it made me think about it, it's not like there's a lot to do in a stationwagon, and I usually had to go and pee in the bushes at the side of the road at some point (but so did the other kids, so it wasn't just me).

Blinky: When I was in kindergarten, I was in a school close enough to the city that it wasn't all white kids. I developed a crush on a black boy named Stephen. Every day there would be a snack time and we'd be given a cookie, and then after we'd all get our individual blankets and have a nap on the floor of the large carpeted classroom. (The lights would be turned out and we would be told to try to sleep, for about an hour or so) It was a bit like a kindergarten meditation class, adults speaking in soothing voices, telling us to have nice thoughts.

One day I offered my cookie to Stephen, but he refused it. So that was my first rejection. Basically, since I was most drawn to him out of all the kids in the class, I think it probably means that my parents were somewhat open to the possibilities of interracial dating, and passed their attitudes on to us.

In Northern Ontario, there'a a lot of racial tension. Near the camp/resort, there was an old empty rusting water tank with Drunk Tank graffitied on it, and people made jokes only about it applying to the indigenous Canadians in residence. Neil was always grumbling or making cracks about the indigenous Canadians.

Where we lived, the population was officially 52. There were a few other 'resorts' and a combination general store/gas station/post office, so other than those who ran the resorts, the only other residents were Aboriginal. I'm actually not even sure if they were included in the count, though. A lot of vacationers would come and go through the summer.

When I was 14, I had a thing for an indigenous guy who dove from the highest point at The Falls with incredible skill and ease, like the young werewolves in Twilight, but he never took any of my hints and so I felt kind of rejected. I never knew his name.

There was the horrible disaster when I went on a date at 18 with a Sri Lankan guy who partway through the date told me about how he picketed abortion clinics, and started to elaborate about the philosophies behind it all.

And another horrible disaster at 21 at the time I had just discovered the wonders of bulimia. An incredibly handsome young black man followed me from the subway quite a ways down my street and I gave him my number. He was intelligent and successful, and knew a lot about computers, and I felt self-conscious because the computer course I played up in talking to him was really just a lame 6 week thing in association with the Futures program, for young Canadians who for the most part really didn't have one. Ok, so I was afraid to tell him that, but the bigger issues were that I didn't have a place to live and was going to have to go to Winnipeg if I didn't figure out something soon, and I could not stop eating and vomiting. And so I always worried he thought it was a race issue. Stigma rears its ugly head yet again.

Dr Velvet Thong: Er.. how do I put this? I'm feeling a tad uneasy here.

Blinky: You mean, it seems sort of icky and racist of me to be listing these anecdotes as if to get a biscuit, and ends up sort of sending an opposite message, because the anecdotes aren't relevant in and of themselves? OK, point taken.. In the future, will we be saying things like: my first bf had OCD, the second ADHD, as if to prove we were a little less bad than everyone else?

Dr Velvet Thong: I am kinda hoping the home viewing audience perceives the sarcasm here.

Blinky: Boo's first serious girlfriend was a wunderkind Chinese girl with a New Wave hairdo, whose father Ping kicked her out of the house when he found the two of them in bed together. She stayed with us for a while, in an already cramped apartment, when I was in full withdrawal from the world mode.

In those days, I tended to read any books or textbooks siblings happened to drag home, because I wasn't able to get out to the library, and it was long before the internet. She had some things by Sylvia Plath. I remember that we had a discussion about Sylvia Plath. I said 'that chick is seriously out of touch with reality', and I suppose she realized at that point there was no point in discussing it further.

At 21 when I worked for 11 days as a waitress at the Delawana Inn in Honey Harbour, the gay writer-waiter I befriended because he looked down commented that I reminded him of Sylvia Plath, and I started to connect some dots. He was one of those Writers who know they want to be writers from a young age, and that intimidated me somewhat, because I was still in the stage of burning everything I wrote.

I understand now a lot more of the complexities underneath 'seriously out of touch with reality', but I think my original family is still in the phase I was back then. How can you get someone help or recognize anything's wrong when you judge that person as someone who should be dismissed out of hand? I was a shut-in in incredible discomfort, and instead of processing it creatively or psychoanalytically, again and again, I was telling myself 'snap out of it', and so was everyone else, and there was this stalemate where no progress was made, and my self-esteem took blow after blow after blow, from my family, and myself.

She had a cute little teddy bear and basically, The Bumble's take on the whole thing was to call her and the bear the 'Chuck and Bob Show' - a reference to the 70s satirical comedy-soap Soap, in which one character was a ventriloquist who couldn't be parted from his dummy. That's an example of The Bumble's sense of humour and how he tended to nickname our Significant Others. But he also commented on behaviour in 'humorous' ways .

Beany had a wicked sense of humour, too. 'Chuck' knew a lot more about cooking than I did [I have listed my repertoire in the family skeleton recipe section], and I think she was trying to help expand our palates or horizons while staying with us. I thought that was basically a good thing, but one day Beany just lost it with her, and I admit it, I found it extremely funny. It could be that Beany mainly was tired with what she perceived as a 'superior' or condescending attitude toward food, but her politically very incorrect rant was pretty hilarious. I really can't do it justice, but I can remember something like Beany was fucking sick of having to eat 'bok fucka choy' every fucking night, and the whole rant was delivered with incredible timing and perfectly chosen rhythmical slurs, with nice attention to alliteration and uh, I had the word a moment ago.

It's weird, Boo had always been the only member of the family who never really liked Chinese food, even before he started dating her. I guess he had some cognitive dissonance issues of his own.

Blinky: The Bumble was allergic to hot weather and food that might trigger bowel problems, he had difficulties with long drives, and for some reason Boo chose to get married in Mexico.

Dr Velvet Thong: Do you think that was just about getting a good price for a wedding package, or that it was also some kind of unconscious statement on his part?

Blinky: Maybe it was a bit of both, but the price factor did make it possible for a lot of friends and relatives to attend the wedding.

I guess it's kind of glaring that the two biggest asshats in the family, me and The Bumble, were the only ones not in attendance.

It was the year I had travelled on my Socialphobe's World Tour thing. At the end of that, I'd spent a couple of months in Melbourne trying to relocate there, and failed, and was in crash mode again when Cecil emailed me to inform me Grampa Sumrf had recently died, the funeral had been a few days (or more) ago, and in passing, he mentioned Boo's wedding. Nobody had been planning to tell me. I mean, I hadn't told them when I was getting married, so I suppose that's fitting, even though mine was a marriage of convenience and political defiance, and the less everyone knew the better..

I made a few comments that I suppose Cecil passed on to Boo and I guess I didn't irritate anyone too badly, and so Boo and I started emailing back and forth, and he invited me to the wedding, and even offered to pay for my hotel room.

I wrestled with it a lot, but in the end, I think it's probably best I decided not to go. It seems like a majorly crappy thing, but I think if I had gone it would have felt to me like everyone thought of me as the biggest monster in the world, only they'd be sort of polite and kind to my face about it. And if I tried to just keep the peace, and support Boo on his day, I think I might have locked myself into family patterns with no hope of ever challenging them, like, reinforced the patterns for an extra decade or more, just by showing up once for a wedding. And you know, perpetuated the idea 'Oh Blinky's doing great, living in Australia'. I would have participated in stigmatizing myself and mental illness by pretending I was normal and fine, so as not to ruin Boo and Bram's wedding.

I had travelled around the world, yes, but not in a 'normal' way, and in any conversation in which I was asked the usual questions, and people demanded to see my social passports, conversation would have become very awkward, very fast, because a lot of my baggage does indeed come from the family of origin, and maybe it's best the new relatives would have a more positive idea of that family, or, more specifically, that they thought highly of Boo and sympathized that he'd managed to get past the ugly parts (eg, me).

I think all my siblings have managed to find partners who complement them well, who are decent people, attractive on many different levels - basically good matches, even if I have some issues with the institution of marriage itself, and the myths we are sort of pressured to perpetuate when it comes to any longterm relationship.

I didn't ever meet Bram, but she and I exchanged emails for a while, and when I did tarot readings via email for Boo, for a while I also did them for her (I didn't do them for my other siblings or their Significant Others). I think it's possible that eventually I was 'too negative' for her and Boo was too kind to say anything, but it could be that I had made things awkward and she was worried she had done something wrong - even though she's a good communicator and can adapt well to a wide range of people, there is this vibe about me that tends to scare people off, and that's partly why I keep trying to explain more about the stigma thing. But again, it's really difficult to really see oneself, and I do get that the truth of the matter might be that I am a kind of monster almost no one can stand to have contact with, and Boo is extremely brave, and she accepts his loyalty to family.

I do like Bram, but perhaps more importantly, I like her for Boo. I also like the other SOs for the siblings in question.

"Around the world, women are the primary caregivers for children, the elderly, and the sick, and this responsibility hampers their economic development."

When it came to enabling women for the future, the primary recommendations all concerned investment: financial, education, and cultural, in women's futures.

Blinky: Reading this quote, it would seem difficult for me to connect that at 16 in a way I was a 'primary caregiver', and that it might have had any effect on my economic development. It always felt kind of like I hadn't done much of anything, even though I was with the younger ones the majority of the time while The Bumble was out, and I did all the meal planning, housecleaning, laundry, birthday planning, etc. I didn't get any financial compensation or credit. It was just 'normal', and The Bumble didn't think it was anything because he still believed kids raised themselves and women didn't do much, unless they had well-paying jobs. But, I could agree that I needed some kind of investment in my future.

Blinky: I have compiled a list of the times in my life when I have been physically violent with others.

1. Hair pulling and punching (The Bumble inflicted these on me, in response to my depression), and my efforts to get free (a kind of wild, crazy flailing, and name calling), . This I think was the most dramatic and extreme. (I was 15)

2. Me punching Truck Driver at prom (16). (Ah, also in self-defence when followed and attacked by 2 girls - I was 11 or 12.) Both incidents resulted in black eyes for the recipients.

3. Bashing Beany's head against wall/closet when I could not take her casual denigration. I was 20, she was 15.

The Bumble would mention the time I turned the kitchen table over on my sister, but I don't think that's fair. I was trying to make a dramatic/desperate point, it was him I was mad at, and I was careful not to hurt anyone. Since it was him I was mad at, if I had turned it over on anyone, it would have been on him.

Dr Velvet Thong: The Bumble had come into your room, you were depressed and without energy, he became enraged, and dragged you by your hair, in your socks, out to the barn to help with the horses. The previous year, all the effort you had put into training for the big horse show was rendered meaningless and you never received an apology, and although it was the result of The Bumble's fuckup, you were still expected to do your chores as usual. The following summer, when you were so depressed you could not get out of bed, he physically dragged you to the barn to help, and sometime after that, when the weather had turned colder, this incident occurred. While he was dragging you by your hair, you slipped in the mud, it was painful, you snapped, and started flailing at him, trying to get free, and he used extreme force to subdue you, including that he punched you, but you eventually got free and ran a mile down the road on a cold rainy night, in your socks, and climbed a tree.

We all know that story, and the one with the girls following you home, and the one with Truck Driver at the prom, but wtf is this one with Beany?

Blinky: That was an isolated, shameful incident I deeply regret.

I hadn't gone out in a long time. I had some pretty clothes I hadn't ever worn. Beany was going to a dance, and needed something to wear, and I offered her some of my clothes. The day after the dance, I found the clothes in a heap, she hadn't treated them well, dirty, damaged, and when she spoke to me, she was cavalier about it all, and even kind of cruel about my situation, this wasn't the first time something like this had happened, and I snapped. And just as I was smashing her head against the closet door (one of those sliding door apartment doors, not a glass or mirrored one, a more flimsy panel? type), that was the moment The Bumble brought K-Pru in the front door to meet us for the first time. I guess I made a really good first impression.

I can imagine this might be something that Beany would think of as abuse, and that she might be angry about it, and she would be right on both accounts. I am sorry, Beany.

These are all awful, and the third is shameful, and it would seem to point to a possibly violent nature, but these were isolated incidents, and they occurred early in life, when I was still surrounded by examples of violence. I learned, I evolved, I shook off my influences. In this, and also in the way The Bumble described people and devalued them. I had to struggle to overcome those patterns and become who I wanted to be. I was never as casual as The Bumble, but from time to time, I would describe someone in a gossipy way, a way they didn't deserve, or that demeaned the friendship - sometimes when I had a valid complaint that could have been directly addressed. I've made conscious efforts to learn from my mistakes, and to change.

Dr Velvet Thong: Did Mama Smurf ever become physically violent with you or any of your siblings?

Blinky: A few times here and there, and sometimes it was pretty fierce. She'd lose her temper, we'd push her too far, but I think she might have felt really guilty after, whereas The Bumble never appeared sorry for anything he did, ever. The Bumble's lawyer asked us if she hit us with an open or a closed hand, and he demonstrated what he meant. She never used a closed hand.

In music class, for a while we studied The Beatles' experimental music. And then we were assigned themes and told to make recordings for that theme. Actually, we might have chosen themes out of a hat, or something. I got 'water'.

I had noticed some beautiful and unusual sounds coming from under the drains in the street where I lived some days on my way to and from school, so I tried to capture those sounds. I tried to work intuitively, and I recorded the sound of running water in the bathroom of my house, and then I thought maybe I should pee and record the sound, and the flushing of a toilet.

I might have rewound and pressed play to check it out while still in the bathroom, and somehow my mother figured out what I was up to and became enraged. I understood that I had done a shameful thing, and my mother was so angry, I think this was one of the times she lost her temper and smacked me repeatedly. Even after this, I was really reluctant to give up my recordings because I was liking the way things were flowing together, but I'm pretty sure I did remove the peeing and flushing for the final version of the project to be submitted.

There were some things she didn't get mad about that other parents might have. For example, I just remembered that at the place our parents built together, Beany went through a phase where she would poo in the pretty livingroom on the off-white carpet, behind the off-white drapes. I think Mama Smurf was able to recognize that Beany was probably stressed out by all the moving we'd done, and so Mama Smurf was more worried about her than angry.

Blinky: There are only a few specific incidents of physical violence between my parents I can recall, but that doesn't mean there weren't more. However, the verbal intensity impressed itself more strongly, and resulted in a kind of constant tension. I used to pray every night they'd win the lottery so they'd be happy and wouldn't fight anymore.

Dr Velvet Thong: Was money tight?

Blinky: They had different philosophies regarding money and how to spend it. He kept moving up in the company, and getting raises, and would want to move again, to better places, and buy more stuff. We never stayed put. Bigger, better houses and better locations, until finally we moved to the country, into a house they built together. I don't think he liked the way she tried to account for every penny, but with her in charge of money, instead of a non-stop junk foodfest, we had lessons of different kinds, we had excursions here and there, regular treats and she probably planned to save to invest in our futures.

Dr Velvet Thong: The incidents of physical violence?

Blinky: She threw a glass ashtray at him while he was reading the newspaper and narrowly missed his head. She beat him over the head with a boot while he was lying in bed.

One night, he came home to find the locks changed. She had just switched the front door and back door locks, but before he figured that out, he tore off or broke down the front door in a rage. It was a really big fancy heavy door, so it was kind of scary.

The year before the first trial separation was a very stressful one. It's not just that I went to 3 different schools.. we lived in 3 different places, and had to move all our stuff more than once. For a time, we were all crammed into Babci and Grampa's house, and it recently occurred to me that at that time, Babci was probably already pretty advanced in her illness. But to have 4 kids, all that moving, having to stay with inlaws, that would be very stressful on a marriage. Not to mention all the details involved with finishing up the new house when you're doing a lot of the work yourself. I'm not sure what month we moved in, but by summer vacation, they had split up.

Dr Velvet Thong: You said he had referred to her as an alcoholic and drug addict. Was there any truth to that?

Blinky: If there was, she hid it well. Every once in a while, there'd be an empty bottle of red wine in the trash, but I'm pretty sure she shared it with Neil.

I only remember seeing her drunk once, whereas it's a lot easier to remember a drunken Bumble, on many occasions. She was probably drunk on many family occasions, and when visiting friends, but in most of those instances, all the drunk adults sort of blur together.

On that occasion, we were visiting old friends, from one of the early neighbourhoods. We kept in touch long after we had moved away. In that neighbourhood, I had liked the tricycle of the daughter who was my age (3), (or maybe it belonged to her sister) and it was through us that our mothers got to know each other.

Mama Smurf was drunk, the other adults were, too, and she was either flirting with or responding to flirting from the man of the house, and it all started to get ugly. The four of us kids were there, as well as their two kids.

I don't know how to describe it, but something really scary happened. The man, it was like he was going from Jeckyll to Hyde before our eyes, and the girls were immediately scared out of their minds and ran to cower under things, and somehow I sensed that they'd seen this kind of thing before.

We left before it got worse, but I don't know what happened after we left. That's the guy The Bumble seemed to imply had finally killed his wife years later, and I didn't call my friend. Meanwhile, on the drive home, not too far from where we lived, Mama Smurf drove the stationwagon into a ditch. It was still a fair hike to walk home, and a teenager stopped and gave us a ride. As a thank you, Mama Smurf invited him in for a drink, and I think there was some flirtation going on. That also might have been the night The Bumble ripped the door off the hinges, but I might be combining two separate incidents in my memory.

Did Mama Smurf have access to any drugs through her Space Cowboy connections? I don't know. And I don't really know how she controlled her weight. If she was an alcoholic, it seems unlikely to me she would have been able to maintain her weight.

In those days, it wasn't that hard to get diet pills, and so perhaps between smoking, caffeine and diet pills she managed it, and that also had something to do with why she had heart problems at 37, but I don't know. If there was anything from her sister and brother-in-law that was effective, it seems the sister would also have access to it. However, Sister Smurf's weight was always up and down, and she was never as slim as Mama Smurf. She smoked, and smoked pot regularly, and she also liked red wine.

I met one of Neil's baby mamas, and she fit the unfortunate stereotype of a junkie burnout, but my mother never really seemed either drunk or high. It could be that she saved such behaviours for times we were visiting The Bumble.

Blinky: It was passed through the grapevine that my friend's father had some issues and got violent, and I think he put his wife in the hospital several times. The Bumble never liked him and said he looked shifty-eyed, and he also intimated that he and various others had thought this would happen some day. I wonder if that family thought something similar about The Bumble.

Years later, I heard that the wife had died young, and The Bumble seemed to be saying he thought it was the result of a beating that got out of hand, but I have never known for sure.

Dr Velvet Thong: Your friend and her mother had been at Mama Smurf's funeral?

Blinky: Yes. I didn't go to her mother's funeral. I was afraid to contact her, in case I made things worse. In the last conversation we had, she had told me about how she was married to a guy who was a couch potato and she was getting fed up, and I told her about my most recent hospitalization and being on welfare and she asked me if that was enough for me, and she didn't mean in a monetary sense. I understood that she couldn't relate to my situation, and it made me feel pretty bad. But aside from that, my raging eating disorder and the fact that I rarely went out made the whole thing difficult. I was afraid to contact her in case by accident I made things all about me. We've never spoken since, and I don't blame her.

Blinky: At that time she was going places in life and didn't need to be held back by losers. She was a neonatal nurse at the same hospital where I'd had my abortion. Yes, she was the one I OD'd with the first time. She was getting herself together, and I didn't want to drag her down. A big part of it was her tone while talking to me. I understood that she was not impressed, and I understood she thought I was a loser. I quietly went away.

On one of the days designated for viewing my mother's body, she ran after me when I ran out the door of the funeral home in distress crying. I had been talking to my mother's distant cousin, the one who later invited me to stay with her and her husband, and the things she was saying, about me, my mother and grief, I just couldn't relate to any of it, and that's what panicked me and set me off and I ran, and I guess it didn't seem totally out of place or unexpected. I felt like a fraud because I didn't think I was crying about my mother's death. I thought it was about something else.

We talked for a while and we both said we had been raped and had abortions (er that I was going to have one). I always felt guilty for the way it came out and that I lied and I know girls like me give girls a bad name, but in many ways my experiences with him were fairly bad, and he did try to rape me a few times before acquiring consent, and karma's a bitch, he did anally rape me not long after, maybe to make an honest woman of me.

Maybe sometimes people don't know how to articulate some awful experiences and so it comes out in words others can understand and sympathize with.

Blinky: One thing I want to get across relates to betrayal and saying negative things about family. In large part due to The Bumble's example, of how he treated me, but also due to how Mama Smurf became angry and insecure when people didn't take her side, and also because of competitive issues in both families with siblings, (see the various examples where every time his sister is doing better, he has to come up with a new insult or way of framing the situation so he can 'top' his sister, and Mama and Sister Smurf's possibly unconscious but serious rivalry.. for me to go public is a major betrayal and I'd fully expect many family members to say 'you think you're the only one with problems, but more than that, that rather than to try to see what I'm trying to say and think about it carefully, to dismiss it or see it as a justification for retaliation: I have been so nice all these years keeping your fuckups to myself well now you're gonna finally get it! Because I think or expect 'family' to react with anger, violence or retribution to my experiences and feelings, which has probably never been a very good incentive to have feelings, about anything.

But with my Manifesto, I'm not trying to bring the family down, at least not consciously. I'm trying to stand up for myself and my feelings, and I'm trying to point out flaws in the family structure and belief system. It's not that I think I've got everything right and made no mistakes myself, but one person can only figure out so much on her own without feedback. It's like for years I've tried to be ready to calmly address my mistakes and brace for the understandable anger that might come with it all, and it's hard to be constantly ready, thinking your whole family might attack you as an individual all at once. But what other choice was there? And if they are going to wait until I die, and then try to 'rebut' what I've said, then I damn well better try to answer as much in advance as I can.

Blinky: When I got out of the hospital, for two weeks, the Bumble had been on his own with Beany, and I think it's likely she absorbed his attitudes. No child wants to unleash that kind of rage in a parent. It threatens the feeling of being loved and secure in that love. Beany became an anti-Blinky. All of the kids had witnessed parental rage toward Blinky, and none of them wanted it for themselves. None of them were ever 'problem teens'. To be a problem teen was to be damned to hell, and even to death. And from that point, in part their own security and sense of self-esteem developed at the expense of Blinky's. Whenever they could show they weren't like her, it was another notch on the belts of their self-esteems. See Ma, see Pa, I'm not like Blinky. They didn't know they were doing it, or that The Bumble encouraged and reinforced it.

At every family get-together, everyone trotted out their lists of successes, or at least 'normality'. That pattern was set young. That's what 'dinner conversation' was.

I got my Learner's Permit, but he never offered to take me driving because he didn't think he could stand to be around me. It was enough that he was forced to go to counselling sessions after the suicide attempt with me.

Dr Velvet Thong: Didn't he get caught for drunk driving around that time?

Blinky: Yes, 3 times I think between my suicide attempt and June or so. Maybe he believed it had something to do with me and what I had put him through, but Natalie had left him, his horse business had failed, he wasn't going to be able to keep the farm or the horses unless he figured out something fast, and I think he kind of reverted to out of control teenage boy behaviour. He wasn't coping, and there was no one to help stabilize his life and behaviour. If he hadn't lost his licence, and if our mother had died a few months earlier, maybe he would have been able to keep the farm, but I don't know. (If child support payments didn't have to be made, and we all moved in together.)

Dr Velvet Thong: His father was killed by a drunk driver at age 41?

Blinky: I don't know for sure, but that's the story I remember. He was walking at night, and was hit by a drunk driver. Mother Bumble was not impressed by the institution of marriage and I think she had some problems with his drinking, and I don't know for sure but it seems possible that he was actually a drunk pedestrian when he was struck and killed, but maybe there's more to the story.

But if someone's father is killed by a drunk driver, are they more aware of the possibilities and do they try to be more careful themselves?

Maybe since he knew someone who had been struck by a drunk driver he saw the 'other side' of this issue? Maybe the world is better off without some pedestrians? His life improved after his father died. He gained his father's power and couldn't be bullied by him, and there wasn't the tension of having to fight in order to develop. The Bumble's pattern with stepsons was always the same: look for the worst in them and ridicule and disparage them at any opportunity, as if they are threats to your male power and authority. Kneecap 'em before they get the chance to get big and strong and usurp you.

The Bumble said his father used to tease him about being skinny, weak and uncoordinated, but The Bumble grew up to be tall, very strong and athletic. The Bumble often teased kids and others about things that weren't going to change. But he thought his father was mean, whereas he himself just had a good sense of humour, and that people who couldn't tell the difference weren't very bright.

All of us learned how to swim, we all had bikes, we climbed trees, we played the usual kid games like Hide and Seek, I had ballet, and also tap and jazz for a while, as well as a bit of figure skating, and piano lessons for a while, Cecil, Boo and I had judo for a while, Boo and Cecil had hockey, but only Boo stayed with it, Beany had ballet, but only for one season, then she had modelling, (Boo and Beany were chosen for a sprog fashion show once, but me and Cecil were rejected), The Bumble taught us about horses and how to ride (and rope a bit), he also taught us how to box and he taught us some street fighting tips, Grampa Smurf was a champion horseshoe thrower and golfer and taught the boys, in Northern Ontario we all had crosscountry skis, and we learned to waterski (Cecil and I were the best swimmers, but Boo was the best waterskier and downhill skier), we all played tee-ball for a while and the boys went on to play baseball, but I had hated tee-ball, a dropdown list would probably be better for all of this.

Boo continued in adulthood to seek out team sports, and I think even now might play hockey and basketball. For a while Gandhi played hockey with him, and online computer games with Cecil.

Cecil was a good all-round athlete. At one of the Toronto universities when he was in high school, he came 4th in discus throwing, when I don't even think he trained, it's just that he had the kind of grace and coordination that went with that particular event. None of us had in-depth or focued training in any sport. In Northern Ontario, it was often difficult to find good teachers. Beany ended up getting fewer types of lessons than the rest of us, and her health issues had also made some things difficult.

She played field hockey for a while in high school.

Cecil was good at gymnastics (me too). He was phenomenally strong, and very graceful. And like me he had really good endurance. People would always assume he was bigger than he was. He didn't look overweight or anything, but his waist and hip measurements would be much smaller than people guessed. I guess that's kind of like me, but I think he just looked extremely proportional and fit, whereas I had to struggle to look fit.

Cecil, Boo and I spent a lot of time engaged in a kind of consensual wrestling. None of us ever 'fought dirty', we could all be counted on to fight fair, and basically just try to pin the opponent down or whatever or get the other to say give. (I usually won in the end. And I usually won when we raced, too.) I remember in Inglewood, we had a selection of bandaids ready, and some other first aid stuff, in the basement rec room, in case anything went awry, so we wouldn't have to go upstairs and alert the parental units. (We never needed them. There was a pair of scissors I used once to cut some gum out of Cecil's hair, and I did a terrible job and he had this missing hair huge hump where it was, but I do remember finding it hysterically funny, the way he looked. But I hadn't tried to make him look bad.. I'd honestly tried to cut it so the parents would never know the gum had been there.) We played rough, but we had a good instinct about how far we could push each other. I think this really helped all of us to develop certain kinds of strength and agility.

Aside from isolated incidents, we all really tended to play extremely fair. I don't think Cecil and Boo fought each other (in anger, or anything not like the consensual stuff we did as kids) and they certainly never fought The Bumble. For the most part, the three of us might have been a good influence on Beany. I've mentioned her health problems, but she was strong and athletic, too. She didn't get the chance to try as many things as the rest of us, partly because she was still so young when Mama Smurf died, and Mama Smurf had a lot to do with introducing variety, or organizing it. And she also used to make sure we went regularly for doctor's checkups, dentist appointments and haircuts. All that went out the window with The Bumble, except that The Bumble might have noticed when the boys' hair was getting long and would give them money for SuperCuts and say go get a haircut. In those days, though, my favourite part of the day would be when I could read in bed with my reading light.

We might have been active in ways a lot of kids now aren't now, and maybe even back then the variety we were exposed to might have had something to do with why we tended to be good all-round athletes. There was a lot of excess, though, and we never learned consistency or discipline, and we were uprooted a lot, and although each of us had specific talents, none were developed to their full potential. There wasn't enough focus.

We tended to be aware of how much we didn't know, and that we weren't experts in any area, whereas when participating in any activity we'd often come across those who'd focused for years in particular specialties. They'd tend to be more sure of themselves, and would often underestimate us. Just like 'horse people' have certain codes of behaviour, so do people in various sports and intellectual pursuits, and we wouldn't be as 'extroverted'. We were 'different' in a way that's hard to pinpoint.

Beany has a kind of forced extroversion that comes across kind of like a salesperson or bureaucrat, except that I think she thinks she's sincere. She tends toward the opinionated, but as a sprog, that's part of how her identity developed, and how she differentiated herself. Adults found her cute and amusing when she expressed 'opinions'.

I wonder if studies have been done regarding how well children fare when the mother or father dies, and which tends toward the best results.

The Bumble took us to see Jaws, and Beany was so scared that she had to sit on his lap facing away from the screen. And the rest of us were evil.. we tortured her in a swimming pool with the Jaws music theme, and used flutterboards for shark fins, that kind of thing. The Bumble also had the paperback, and I'd read it. Every cool/popular new book he tended to have. So between his books, Mama Smurf's, porn, Seventeen magazine, Classic Literature, and whatever else I managed to find on my own at the library, and the mandatory books in school, it's maybe like my reading material was varied in the way my athletic development was, but this wasn't the case for the others. I think with porn they mainly looked at the pictures, they didn't read many of The Bumble's or Mama Smurf's books, or seek out stuff on their own. But if they were starting with a similar potential and intelligence, it means that their intelligence was channelled differently from mine.

It makes sense that if my background prepared me for 'psychology' that to them it looks like a foreign language.

Dr Velvet Thong: How many times have you been hospitalized in psych wards, and the circumstances in each case?

Blinky: I've been hospitalized 3 times; 4 if you count the OD on baby aspirins at age 3, with the neighbour mentioned above. On that occasion, she and I shared an economy-sized bottle on my parents' bed, while presumably the adults had cocktail time for an extended period.

We were rushed to Emergency, our stomachs were pumped, we both survived. I instigated the whole thing, and I've always felt kind of guilty about it. I'm not sure where I got the idea, though. It is one of my early most detailed memories of childhood, though.

Dr Velvet Thong: Moving along to age 16.

Blinky: A series of events. First, in summer, the breakdown at my mother's, asking to see a psychologist, the disappointing results of the sessions I attended, spending two weeks in bed, being dragged to the barn in nightie to help with chores, then at school, mounting stress and eventual acting out - getting drunk, blacking out and screaming at parties and making out. Which reminds me I have to get the layer of obsession into all the 'problems', but I'll get back to it.

One day I skipped school, walked home with my neighbour through the Holland Marsh so we wouldn't be seen on the main roads, and it took over 3 hours to get home, then we drank beer together, The Bumble's supply of Canadian ale in the cellar, and I drank 13 and next you know, Beany comes home from school, finds me in a pool of my own vomit and The Bumble drives me to Emergency with suspected alcohol poisoning. After that, I had some mandatory counselling sessions and a script for imipramine.

I took it for a couple of months, but it wasn't helping at all, and I hated the dry mouth, I felt hopeless, and I just started saving them up, and collecting amphetamines from this guy at school. I didn't really want to die at that point, but I couldn't see a future for myself, and I didn't know how to reduce the tension that it was becoming unbearable to live with.

At this time Truck Driver wore me down, and I've already described that to some extent. I had spring exams which I hadn't studied for, and all term I'd just been writing the date and crossing it out in all my notebooks. A crisis had been brewing for a long time. Truck Driver for some reason brought Bright's President to school on a day I had 3 exams. He showed it to me and gave me a sip and then said I shouldn't have more because I had exams to write, but I said fuck it, I'd written a couple of tests drunk earlier in the term and still got the highest mark in the class.. he had two bottles, and I chugged.

I had to write in the conflict room because I had so many exams on one day, and the room was spinning, weaving, etc. I didn't even bother to read questions, and I scrawled my name in huge letters, like a kid in kindergarten.

That day, my mother was picking me up in the stationwagon for March Break. For the first time, I slept through most of the trip up North. She asked me if I had been drinking and I said no.

I spent that week fantasizing about my old bf, the one who dumped me after 2.5 weeks, and told myself it was just for the week, and when I returned back I resolved I would be a faithful girlfriend, and only think of Truck Driver, and accept the good fortune of having someone who cared about me. And then there was the birthday party, which I have described, and then on the Monday when I got my exams back, I had failed all three I had written that day (and no others. My scores weren't as high as usual, but still better than most kids'.)

I told The Bumble about my failed exams and it enraged him, and so I said something like 'I'm failing everything!' when I wasn't actually in danger of failing any subject, and he got madder still and said I had half an hour to get my things and get the fuck out of the house.

I had nowhere to go, and I didn't want to call Truck Driver. I was backed into a corner and didn't know what to do. The Bumble demonstrated to Beany that the appropriate response to my depression and shennanigans was Rage. I flipped the dining table over (not on her, as he said) with full care not to hurt anyone, but still with dramatic flair. She had found me in vomit, she saw me take pills - I was doing this to her, and she's never forgiven me. He taught her to have no empathy for me, and to not put up with my shit.

I know that kind of thing does have effects, but I think some balance and proportion should be restored to the overall picture.

Dr Velvet Thong: It seems there's something of a pattern. Each time you ended up in a hospital from puberty on, it was related to not having a place to live, and was tied to your birthday. Not long after your 23rd birthday, you learned that he hadn't expected you'd live past your 21st. Just after your 24th, perhaps because you sensed mounting tensions again, you preempted things and went voluntarily, at a time you also did not have a place to live.

When it comes to police, sirens, emergencies, I'd been through a few in my life. As a kid, there were a few of my own, and each of the others had turns as well.

At 13, the sirens were blaring and lights flashing when Mama Smurf sent them, and they used a megaphone thing to address the house in general at first. She put me in the position of having to talk to them, even though I had a legal right to choose.

At 16, sirens and flashing lights again with the ambulance that took me to the smalltown country hospital.

And, I'm not sure if it was before or after that, a prank call, probably from my nextdoor neighbour who wanted to get back at me because The Bumble told a mother in denial that her fucking daughter smoked drugs when said mother said to him that I was a bad influence on her daughter. The daughter had tried for years to get me to smoke cigarettes and drugs, and to drink, and for a couple of years we had remained friends without me succumbing, and then eventually I started trying things, which is not to say I might not have been a bad influence in some other way, but the mother would not believe her daughter capable of any of this, and assumed that if anyone was doing drugs, drinking or smoking, it was me.

Basically, she sent a fire truck with sirens and lights to the house, and I had to go to the door to deal with the situation as I was the only one home.

Dr Velvet Thong: Do you think there might be some kind of link between these experiences and your issues with answering doors?

Blinky: I've faced sirens and flashing lights a significant amount of times in my life, and it might have contributed to PTSD symptoms when answering a door.

It's like when you admit you are bulimic, and the people present think you're admitting to cheating on a test, regarding your appearance, or in general, and that's all there is to it. All public conversations for me were like that, and so sometimes it didn't make sense to put myself in that kind of situation. I mean, look at how people communicate online about complex issues. It doesn't make sense if your self-esteem is already low to put yourself to the judgment of people who just don't know much about either social issues, health, or my personal story.

And when your family itself shares the views of the public..

Dr Velvet Thong: Your experience is that if you try to express your feelings, pain or experience, the family response will be anger, rage, physical violence, contempt or dismissal in the form of silence. And that's when you haven't even used inflammatory language, so if you get more 'negative', watch out! I think it makes sense that if you try harder to be heard and acknowledged, the retribution might be more severe.

Blinky: Recognizing I have a valid problem might be beneficial for the family as a whole to solve. They don't mean to, but their attitudes are reinforcing that I am an embarrassment and it's best not to encourage me, but I think I am the result of the logical extension of some of the family philosophies. Maybe it's up to each of them to decide whether it actually is the case that I am a traitor or lost cause and to dissociate themselves, or whether it is possible to rethink some of their ideas about what 'family' means, challenge some of their prejudices, face their fears or insecurities, and find some way for everyone to have a secure personal identity and self-esteem even if there isn't Blinky as the Failure to compare themselves to/validate themselves.

And as for me writing things after The Bumble's death, when he has no chance to respond - I put the 'psychoanalysis' out there years before his death (and the original copies of The Manifesto years before that). He had a chance to confront me on more equal terms - for most of my life he kept driving it home that I had no right to an opinion, look at your life, that kind of thing, and I knew in person, and in speaking he had more 'power' and respect/authority, and so I think it makes sense that I tried to level the playing field and force him onto my territory if he 'cared' - that he could have written. They had a computer, he could have asked for K-Pru's help to get started. If he cared enough.

And so if they eventually try, is it really going to be anything more than admitting the 'embarrassing' things Blinky isn't admitting, kind of like peeing under chairs, or whatever, and they won't see what they're really saying because they don't understand the extent to which they are brainwashed?

The things everyone was 'too nice' to say before? But the problem is, when you don't write, when you don't speak, it all seems clear in your head, and then when you go to make your arguments, you might not really have a good one. I've struggled with that myself, and I've thrown a lot of my writing away, but over time I've been able to see some of what I couldn't before, and I think I do have some 'good' arguments.

This also ties in with having a father who is a 'hero' who accepts all the misfits of society who beat their wives and molest their kids.. it helps with open-mindedness and not raising snobs, but it makes sense you might have a kid who won't be able to tell who means her harm or not, who won't be able to figure out what rape actually is, and who will actually apologize to someone (for leading him on) when he attempts to rape her. If you accept your friends unconditionally, these could be some of the results.

But it's like the whole thing is based upon beliefs I don't accept: that it's a sign of lasting damnation and evil if someone makes any mistake ever, and that it's terrible to have a need to try to talk about past issues and make some changes. I don't think they know that they have an unconscious anger toward me, or what it might be based on, and as a result, I don't know if they really do understand what 'stigma' and misinformation about mental illness mean.

And the whole thing is so tricky, because how do you draw the line between responsibility and personal irresponsibility? What is mental illness and what is self-pity and milking it? But yes, I do sort of expect attacks and anger in response to my feelings and experience, and silence feels like anger, too.

Blinky and Dr Velvet Thong have an emergency therapy session, because Blinky is starting to feel yet again like she's not saying anything important and that because she's communicated so poorly, it makes sense that no one will ever understand what the hell happened, and why she became so depressed and non-functioning when really it doesn't seem like much happened to her at all.

Dr Velvet Thong: Do you think you can sum up your situation more quickly yet, or is it still too difficult?

Blinky: Let's give it another try.

Most people single out events. An incident at 5 with a babysitter, father's sexual advances, an abortion, a mother's death, a traumatic sexual experience at the hands of the unscrupulous and unrepentant. All of these things contributed, as well as ongoing medical issues, ichthyosis, an undiagnosed, painful and possibly unusual bowel condition, and factoring in how hard it is to be a teen - in my particular case, I had a very oily scalp, which made my hair a problem to style, and I had trouble maintaining my 'most attractive' weight. I dealt with a lot of the sexual harassment that many teen girls face, and in changing schools so many times, I was hazed over and over and had to fight for my place. Erratic parenting, their extreme fights and power struggles.

The addictive behaviour made all of these things much worse, and this was the main area in which I felt out of control. I could not eat like a 'normal' person, and the resulting distress affected every part of my life and my day.

In having visitation with The Bumble, all the kids were exposed to a kind of excess that The Bumble did not really understand was unhealthy. When left alone in the house, I acted this out: I kept waiting for parental guidance and help that never came. My eating wasn't for fun, it was a kind of panic, a way of trying to express I needed some kind of psychological 'nourishment'.

Mama Smurf was 'more right' than The Bumble, but my unconscious programming couldn't accept this. She cared in ways he would never be able to. She could see what was needed for internal and external support.

The two of them had very different philosophies. Some of his humour felt like devaluation to her, and she didn't want her kids to grow up with it. Throughout my life I've tried to find a balance with cynicism, realism, as well as trying to see the good. This has been a major struggle, and probably relates to how difficult it became to attend family functions, always feeling guilt whatever decision I reached.

When I moved in with The Bumble at 13, I began to have crushes that were more intense than those of other kids. I had waited a couple of years to have the legal right to choose to live with The Bumble, and once I was there, what was missing was what I mentioned above, a kind of caring and guidance that I didn't know were important.

What I experienced that none of my siblings did was the primal rage of each parent, directed at me. They were both quite powerful, and I was still relatively innocent, unformed and unprepared. The others saw only glimpses of it, but I think it 'scared them into line' - a kind of survival instinct, their lives and the chance to be loved depended on it.

Throw in many moves, and giving up of pets, and writing to people who eventually stopped writing to me. I pass over these things quickly, but it's part of the process of how a person loses ties to life.

Dr Velvet Thong: Try to focus. I thought you were going to try to sum it up quickly.

Blinky: OK. I became a problem The Bumble didn't know how to solve. He'd used me to make Mama Smurf feel bad: see, she doesn't need you, all of your horseshit was for nothing, and then rather than see she was right when I did start to go belly up, he dismissed me as a lost cause, or rewrote the story to say I had always been off and destined to kill myself.

I think all of the events were enough in themselves, but the final straw was probably The Bumble's look of utter contempt and disgust. All my suffering, all the things I'd tried, all the love I had for family, and that's how he saw it.

And I still had enough 'love' that I tried to see it positively. I put myself in his position, and I saw it was difficult to have a daughter who just wouldn't leave. But in order to still love him and the rest of the family, I had to create a love fantasy in which I would fall in love with someone, and we would go on a trip and kill ourselves together.

I would be helping my father and my family, and I'd still get to have a personal and intense 'romance' and connection. Win-win. I did not attract that, because what's underneath the fantasy is fucked up. It's about me accepting my family's lack of understanding, lack of support and trying to say it's ok to see me that way. Their treatment of me isn't really 'loving'.

I still didn't understand totally. Instinctually, I kept thinking I fell out with my family after the 'Get a fucking job you fucking loser' incident, but it was just a glaring one that stuck in my mind, an example of how he would spin situations to come out looking like a 'hero', while deflecting attention away from the fact that he never had to apologize for anything. He never had to ackknowledge that he'd behaved badly. So, whether it's for physical or psychological abuse, contempt, anger, sexual advance, he would always spin it such that he never had to apologize or admit he had behaved badly.

Because no one stood up to him, unconsciously, it felt like they let him speak for them. His rage and contempt were unconsciously passed on: this is the way to respond to her ridiculous 'depression' and accusations. Rage and contempt, or simply refusing to dignify her communication with any kind of response. Silence, freeze her out.

We were in family therapy presumably because there were some hidden patterns we probably needed to identify. We didn't solve our communication issues there, because we couldn't identify them.

What I needed was the belief that I deserved support to get therapy, but also that it was possible to help me. The Bumble did not believe I could be helped, and we all internalized this. It's been a pretty major stumbling block all my life, and at a certain point, it probably became the truth. But I think there's a distinction to be made. It might be the truth now, but it probably wasn't back when I was 15-16.

When I received disability, I wasn't like the others I've had contact with who receive it. They have somehow had some kind of input or counselling or internal belief system that allows them to accept it. I was constantly feeling undeserving, and that it was only fair it be cut off soon such that I had to live on the street or kill myself, because that is what I 'deserved' for being who I was. And I'd constantly struggle with the things I had to do to ensure I could keep getting it. It all made me feel very bad about myself, which became another obstacle to meeting new people or having a life, and the thing is, objectively I can see that my situation was 'bad enough' that I would qualify for this type of help. So maybe the underlying family belief is that the disabled are worthless, and should get themselves to the suicide forest without further delay.

I suppose philosophically it's all still valid. You're born into a certain society at a certain time, life isn't fair, if you struggle under the weight of your particular burdens, suicide is a valid option. But, it's also valid to try to contribute something to the understanding of the mind and the dynamics of communication and understanding.

I needed someone to see that I needed support, encouragement, to attend therapy regularly, that I was worth effort, I needed my family to see me as someone who was actually sentient. It might sound odd, but they just didn't think about what I was doing with my time or life. I know that most families are like this, and it's not that I had no personal initiative. I did make efforts, but my obstacles were so great that even very great efforts did not connect with reality to a great enough extent.

OK, yes, I see it, as I express it, I see I'm still taking too many words to say it all, and to most people it's not going to sound like anything but noise, and they will retain their current beliefs. That doesn't mean I shouldn't try to say it, and try to say it better, until I actually am capable of contributing to the evolution of human consciousness.

Blinky: When I look over my life, I don't want to go back and relive any of it or do it over. And I think that points to the main problem. I don't think I can imagine any life in which I'd be happy. So, does that mean my destiny has always been to be one of the rejects of society, who gets off to a reasonably good start, then goes downhill fast, and is abandoned to a horrible fate?

What do I believe, underneath? In my struggles to understand all people's motivations and situations, it's about wanting a better world, one where we don't have to accept that some people must suffer all their lives and there's simply nothing that can be done. So it means that I don't want people to have to go through what I have, and I myself want something better for myself.

Dr Velvet Thong: Let's scrap this dialogue. You've said these things before. You need to learn to say them better. You'll have to accept that even when you've said things well, most people don't have the necessary foundation of knowledge and experience to absorb it. They're not living at the same level of consciousness.

"Fathers who are moderately strict are those that have clear rules, and agreed-upon rational consequences that have been discussed with their teen children," Guilamo-Ramos said. Teens should understand their fathers' expectations, and know the consequences of not following the rules. But fathers should also discuss with their teens the decisions teens can manage on their own and the areas fathers want input from their teens in making a rule or decision, he said.

Encouraging appropriate levels of teen autonomy and being consistent are important actions for fathers, he said.

Blinky: Maybe I set a bad example when I moved to Australia. I didn't call anyone or talk to anyone.

Dr Velvet Thong: Whoa, what happened there?

Blinky: For the past 3 years, I'd had very little contact with any family members, while Gandhi continued to socialize with my family members, their significant others, and a circle of friends. When my disability was cut off, I went through a kind of 'desperate phase' where I tried to get out into the world to find a way to kill myself, and after that crashed, I withdrew.

Dr Velvet Thong: Your family didn't inquire as to what was going on with you?

Blinky: After the whole family therapy debacle, I think everyone assumed I was 'set for life', and in addition to that, they have this approach to communication that's like 'oh Blinky, she's fine, she's with Gandhi, she's busy.' It was what they learned early on to hide the situation from relatives and friends, and the unspoken thing was that I was an embarrassment to the family; I reflected badly on them. And yet, Beany and probably the others might actually believe they always accepted me, exactly as I was/am.

Dr Velvet Thong: Cognitive dissonance.

Blinky: More than half a year before I was even in contact with Don Quixote, Gandhi and Madison went together to get tattoos, and just prior to that, on New Year's Eve that year, when I was at home alone, there was an odd drunken phonecall.

Maybe this relates to the stigma and misunderstanding about mental illness.

Gandhi, my brothers, the whole social group went to a party at Madison's place. I was home alone drinking and dancing. At midnight, I might have called the house, or they called me, and so I wished a bunch of people a Happy New Year, and some of them did the same to me.

Everyone was very drunk, and Madison, when she spoke to me, kept asking if I was 'jealous' and she kept laughing, over and over.

I didn't really know what she meant, but if she'd actually had any real understanding of my mental health situation or issues, it would seem that was a pretty insensitive thing to say. And if it wasn't about that, the obvious..

Dr Velvet Thong: She was asking if you were jealous that Gandhi and she had an attraction?

Blinky: Yes, that would be my guess. But he said they never had sex until August, and just before then, I had gone with him to the doctor to get a prescription for viagra, which he never used with me. I'm getting ahead of the story here. The other issues were that she was 5 years younger, very tall, and slim.

But I know that drunken people can regret the things they say, and in those days I really wasn't a suspicious person, and I didn't dwell on things. In reality, I did want there to be some way Gandhi and I could break up, I wanted to have a new relationship myself, and it seemed hypocritical to get mad. He had been socializing more and more over the years, and I always encouraged it and never hassled him. I thought it was 'good' for him to move forward, but I did try to stress that I hoped we'd always be an 'alternative family' to each other, and that we'd always be in each other's lives.

When I first started posting to a.s.h, Gandhi didn't want me to. Even before all the privacy issues we know about today, he didn't really think it was safe. But I insisted, and eventually I insisted on getting my own web-based email account too, to his protestations. He really didn't want me to do it, but I was very isolated, and once I started posting, it seemed like a positive thing for me to have something of a social life, too.

I don't think he really understood my situation, or how isolated I was, and to him, the fact that years before I had actually qualified for disability didn't have any 'real' significance. It was like with my family.. I think everyone thought it was just this thing, that didn't represent anything real, any struggle, any real problem. The leadership position in the family was that anger and judgment were valid responses to my 'milking of things'. And so even when I was granted disabililty, I felt like a fraud, and that it was only a matter of time before they'd stop it and I'd get what I deserve: to have to face the toughness of 'the real world'.

The fact that I was not going out, that I had gained weight and wore the same things all the time.. that was just a reason to feel disgusted and disappointed with me.. it was about me choosing to be a loser, or it was just about the simple fact that I was a loser. There was no connection that anything could be done about it. And he was very patient, for years, and very nice and kind to me, and I think eventually he was angry when I didn't just snap out of it.

Blinky: Gandhi and Madison were seeing each other and technically having sex before Don Quixote and I made plans for me to visit and before I even had a passport, but I didn't know about it. I only found out a few days before I was to leave for Australia.

Blinky: When I asked him why he thought he couldn't tell me, he said Madison said she was afraid people would hate her, and that when he had said I wouldn't tell, she said she didn't know me well enough to trust that.

Dr Velvet Thong: And the two of you had already had an agreement in place for years to be open about this kind of thing, and so his loyalty turned out to be to the new person, and not to you?

Blinky: Yes. I only found out because when he gave his best friend as an alibi, he forgot to tell his friend, and his friend called while Gandhi and Madison were relaxing in a heart-shaped tub in Niagara Falls. His friend seemed positively overjoyed to discover that Gandhi had tried to pull this over on me, and I could hear the 'You go, man' in his tone of voice.

Dr Velvet Thong: What did you do?

Blinky: I thought about it carefully, and to me it made sense that something like this would eventually happen, and that in fact I had been 'supporting' him toward moving on. The thing that was hardest for me was that he didn't believe he could tell me.

When he came back, his weekend cut short (I felt bad about that, and told him it would have been ok with me if he had waited until the end of it, but because of the discovery, I think Madison felt panicked and couldn't get back in the mood), I didn't get mad or even raise my voice once, or behave in passive-aggressive ways. I just wanted to know why he didn't tell me, when I had been open about my past attractions and actions. And in the end, I decided not to be too hard on him, that it all had to happen some way, and it could have been worse.

Dr Velvet Thong: But that was not all?

Blinky: There was a series of events, and I guess one included the whole thing with the life insurance policy. He had taken one out on me that would pay if I killed myself. He'd already had it for some time. When I discovered the policy (it was sitting out on the dining table one day), I asked him about plans for me if anything happened to him, and he said his parents would take care of me, that he had taken out a life insurance policy on himself payable to them. I asked him if he had discussed this with his parents, and he said no, but that it wouldn't be a problem.

You have to understand that for years, he had been telling me every day how much he loved me and couldn't live without me, and he repeated often that if I died, he would shrivel up and die.

I was still really self-conscious about the money issues, and I let it drop.

And then the next surprise..

Right after I found out about this relationship, the phonecalls started. I had barely had time to catch my breath, I was trying to get myself prepared to go to Australia when I hadn't left the house in 3 years, and my siblings all started calling because they heard I was going to Australia.

Dr Velvet Thong: How did they know?

Blinky: Basically, Gandhi and I had agreed that he wouldn't tell the social group. Part of this also relates to the stigma of mental illness.. people don't really believe the mentally ill 'deserve' to travel, or if they're 'ill', they shouldn't be able to travel. And in addition to that, I suppose because they didn't understand our relationship and my openness, (and what I thought we had agreed on together) they would have thought I was treating him badly, cheating on him blatantly, etc.

And I get that maybe he felt trapped and like it was unfair I was getting to go to Australia, and maybe he had some anger he wasn't telling me about, but to do it that way, to go behind my back instead of confronting me, was extremely passive-aggressive and unfair, and probably a good indication to me that he was really really mad. But it was also extremely hypocritical of him to try to get the sympathy of my family and the social group, while not letting anyone know he was having a relationship with a member of the group who was married to another member of the group.

I guess I was realizing our relationship wasn't as 'different' or as 'strong' as I had thought, and that when I tried to be open and to foster 'intimacy', it was a delusion and I could no longer trust this relationship and in fact I was probably on pretty shaky ground.

And from there, I guess I kind of wondered if he was hoping I'd kill myself so that he and his new love could cash in the life insurance policy and have a romantic time of it.

Blinky: So, in this state, I had to deal with phonecalls from the siblings, one after another. The illusions of my life were crashing down and I had the added pressure of justifying myself to those who already stood in judgment of me. Gandhi said he had 'forgotten' we had agreed not to tell anyone I was going to Australia.

And I didn't say much, and I certainly didn't blab about him and Madison, and when they asked what Don Quixote was like, I said he was intelligent and rich, and maybe it was like I was trying to make a comment about that life insurance policy, and about the drunken babbling about me being 'jealous' and what happened is that this caused them all to be even more disillusioned with me and to take Gandhi's side, and to be embarrassed of me, a shallow, cheating materialist, and as I saw it all happening, I was thinking maybe it's for the best, he fits in better with them than I do, he has a better shot in life with a bigger support system, and before I was in his life and he met my family, he only had the one friend, and all they did was get high every night and play videogames and watch porn and he ate chocolate bars and chips every night even though he has Type 1 Diabetes. I didn't think I had any realistic chance at a life, and so I let go, and I accepted their judgment, I let go. And, I still had the trip to Australia, I had something 'positive' in my life, I still had one more adventure.

Dr Velvet Thong: But the years of guilt and stigma had taken their toll, and so you had internalized that you didn't 'deserve' to enjoy it?

Blinky: Maybe. When I came back, I guess the situation was scarier and scarier, and Gandhi was 'forgetting' more and more things we had agreed upon, until the situation was such that he no longer tried to hide his disgust. I think it's possible he was getting pressure from his girlfriend, along the lines of: she's been playing you for years, she's treated you horribly, she's just trying to get attention.

And maybe also she was pressuring him not to spend any time with me, not understanding that I really was 'mentally ill' and needed help getting back on disability, because in the time I was with him I was untreated and unmonitored, but between that pressure and probably not really understanding what my 'disability' was, he couldn't help me.

What I needed him to do was to take me a couple of times a week for therapy (including an assessment process), until I could go myself by public transport or get the doctors and social workers to get the ball rolling. I was also told at that time that because of the political climate/rules, I was going to be refused the first time I applied for disability, and that I'd have to appeal at least once. I needed him to take me to a therapist's office a couple of times a week, until I was settled in the pattern well enough to go on my own.

He couldn't take me to therapy. He had worked for the same company for 10 years and was well-liked there, and it would have entailed telling them that I was mentally ill and needed him to drive me on his lunch hour until I could deal with more, but he was too self-conscious, and couldn't impose on them to that extent or ask, and part of this relates to the stigma in relation to mental illness. And when I said that without disability I'd be homeless he kind of shrugged and asked me what I wanted from him. And I said I wanted him to care and that was probably the most heated discussion we'd ever had in our entire relationship and I said people think you're nice, but you're not really, it doesn't go very deep.

And I said when we decided to live together you signed something saying you understood I was on disability and that after we had lived together 3 years because we were technically commonlaw you would be 'responsible' for me. I guess I do understand that we had to do that to get the money, and if I had done it in good faith I never would have held you to that, and I did not and do not want you to be reponsible for me for the rest of my life, but I do need help getting established, and since we have been together 7 years, I think it's only fair that you try to give me some money for me to live on for now, because I have absolutely nothing and you've left me with this apartment and no way of paying for it or to stay anywhere.

Dr Velvet Thong: Did he think your family would take care of you?

Blinky: Well, he knew his family would have taken care of him, and maybe he expected all families were like that, but I had explained about mine, and he was actually in contact with my family and I was not, and he did not relay to them how dire my situation was, and I couldn't call them probably because my experience with The Bumble led me to associate this sort of thing with judgment, anger and contempt, a look of extreme disgust when I 'didn't get back on my feet eventually'. And again, this is because no one really understood the reality of my situation or condition. It wasn't an option for me, I couldn't call them. I had learned my lesson.

Dr Velvet Thong: But you can see how it looked to everyone else, and to him, that you were having a great old time with all your new internet friends from the suicide group, and that this new 'rich' guy in your life 'should' take care of you?

Blinky: Meanwhile, Gandhi was giving away our furniture to Madison, and Cecil asked for our other furniture for his wife's mentally-challenged sister, and I had no money at all and I ended up selling the rest of the furniture, and got $300 to go to Australia with (although Don Quixote had to pay for my airfare, and also he paid my rent for the last two months I was there - or one, I'm not totally sure), and that was that, I was this scummy person, so cheap I would not leave furniture for a disabled person.

Blinky: The feeling of shame was so intense. I knew Gandhi was disgusted with me. The last messages I left on his machine before I left for Australia he never replied to, he had come to the point where he knew I sometimes went 5 days without food, and he just didn't care, and on the last occasions I had seen him he just didn't even bother to hide his disgust, and so I said to him that I needed to settle all my banking, phone bills, etc, with Canada, and if he could just help out and let me know what has cleared, (he worked at the bank where I had my account, he had opened the account for me even though I didn't have the proper ID) then I would never bother him again, and he could count on me for that.

Dr Velvet Thong: Did you keep your word?

Blinky: Yes. I thanked him for the help with banking, in an email, and that's the last time we ever had contact, more than 17 years ago. And maybe in a way when I left Canada, it seemed best for everyone that it was that way. And now I realize I probably ended up contributing to stigmatizing myself and perpetuating the misunderstandings related to mental illness. But when you think people are going to be afraid they'll never get rid of you, or they'll be disgusted to hear from you, it's not a very great incentive to try to contact them.

Years later, when I was settled in Australia, I wanted to try to explain why I had left like that, and why I hadn't told anyone I had married for a visa, but it was like when I tried to open discussion, everyone already knew it all and didn't want to hear about it.

Dr Velvet Thong: But you can sort of see how they might have felt?

Blinky: Yes, and it seemed like a hopeless situation, and again I thought maybe it was best we just didn't have contact.

Also, I began to feel it wasn't fair to put myself in the position of being judged and having to explain, when it felt like it was 'everyone against me', no one on my side.

But I think that despite my best efforts, what this situation has triggered is that old feeling of anger and contempt The Bumble showed me when I was depressed as a teen, and then later as a hopeless dud when he seemed disappointed he hadn't killed me and/or that I hadn't killed myself. I feel their anger and judgment of me, and even if I can see it might kind of be an internalized sense that I don't 'deserve' any of my 'good fortune', including knowing Don Quixote, possums, living in Australia, I'm not sure I know how to address it such that I can actually experience a sense of deserving or happiness in life. I don't feel like I have ever been accepted or valued, or even 'seen' by my family.

Blinky: Also, I don't think they realize that it's not like I had tons of money when I came here. Don Quixote said no to a $10/wk allowance when I asked for one, and so I had to ask for everything, including personal items. And when we divorced, I was careful not to make it expensive, we did a DIY one online. We'd had a joint bank account, but that was only for show, for the visa people, and I only used it twice, for small amounts, to 'prove' I used it for them.

He eventually agreed to an allowance, but in order to eventually get my own bank account and credit card, I had to go through the humiliation of explaining these things were a 'good thing' for me to have, and it was years before I had either. And legally, the terms of the visa entailed that I was not legally allowed to work in Australia for at least 2 years.

When I came to Australia, it was the whole 'everyone thinks you're a gold-digger' thing with a fresh batch of people. From lawyers to bone crushing handshakes at the 'wedding', to comments about how insightful of me it was to realize I had nothing to offer intelligent young women of promise through correspondence.

Dr Velvet Thong: I'm sure most people still don't understand. How could you have so little personal dignity, why didn't you get things together and 'show everyone'?

Blinky: I suppose that's what the definition of a disability might be?

What felt 'authentic' to me was to try to tell my story, through my website. At first, I only wanted to find someone like me, a suicide partner, someone who had reached the same conclusions as me. And then it was more like I wanted to be understood, by family, by society, and maybe I thought I had something to contribute toward helping people to understand. I guess I haven't been very successful so far.

But if I am a person without redeeming value, if I am a completely disgusting person, is anyone willing to go out on a limb and say 'people like this should have access to humane, painfree death scenarios'? Maybe they don't believe I 'deserve' even that? When it comes to capital punishment for criminals, don't they try to put some effort into researching the 'best' ways? And I don't deserve even that much? I have to linger on slowly, useless to help myself? And what about other people? The methods available to me end up meaning that I can inflict some of my personal despair and horror on those forced to find me/deal with the aftermath?

Dr Velvet Thong: Blinky, a lot of this is really messy, but it seems to me that some of the extremely messy sections contain some important info, and I'm reluctant to advise you to edit it all out.

"Your crime is not only what you did to their bodies, but your assault on their psyche and their souls," Cleland told him at the hearing in Centre County Court. "The tragedy of this story is it is a story of betrayal. Some of your victims had a genuine affection for you.

"It is precisely that ability to conceal those vices from yourself and everyone else that in my view makes you dangerous," he said. -Judge John Cleland

Blinky could wonder aloud: If The Bumble was more bumbling than 'evil', what about me? The message to me is that somehow I deserve worse treatment than him.

When men have friends who make sexist or misogynist remarks, is there any harm? The Bumble accepted friends who actually physically and psychologically abused their significant others. He helped one of these women out, once. Did he just look the other way? He had this image of being a very accepting kind of person, someone who was there for those others would judge, but what are the implications of this? The only time he ever let one of these women stay was at at time there was no SO in the house. So, normally, it would be considered 'bad form' to help out an abused woman in need, too much of an imposition or strain on a relationship, but not too much for kids to put up with, even if they've been going through a really tough time themselves? Or, when they've been 'abused' physically by their own father? When punched, Blinky was not punched in the face, not where it would show, but her body was young, and much stronger than that of most females, and she could probably handle a lot more than other women, so, is it a 'from each to each according to how much they can take' kind of deal, where one kind of abuse is abuse, and the other is just necessary parenting? How is a kid supposed to learn right from wrong, and who to show compassion for? Is the ultimate understanding that everyone deserves compassion, even abusers, more than your bitch of a teenage daughter?

Dead Hamster Rotten Fish Vagina

A particularly pernicious personality disorder. One or more persons persecute another who is for some reason a threat, and try to convince that person that s/he is the problem.

Ok, I'm just kidding. I think where I'm going with this is that a lot of women on both sides of the family, plus significant others, were probably convinced they were afflicted with something like this, and bore it stoically, for the rest of their lives. Maybe metaphorically, but also probably a lot of them felt they were physically gross in some way.

It's probably something more and more women are experiencing.

Department of Cognitive Dissonance

Blinky: I have read more than all my siblings put together. It might have something to do with why I perceive and interpret family history differently to how they interpret it.

I learned to read and had no fear before The Bumble was aware kids my age could actually read at all. He might have inadvertently 'discouraged' the others through a kind of pressure. It's one of the things I remembered and tried to compensate for later with Beany.

A quote from the book:

The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other's life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof.

-Illusions, by Richard Bach

I wonder if he really grasped the concepts he was passing on to us, including that he was kinda fed up with all of us for looking to him, our father, for 'leadership'. At ages 11-16, to some extent, he saw us as disappointing clinging limpets.

Blinky: A weird thing that seems to happen in my life is that I will meet up with people who, because they've developed along certain tangents, don't realize I've read anything.

For example, imagine a bookcase filled with classic Fiction and Nonfiction books. Don Quixote has read half of them, and I have read the half he hasn't read, and we both keep finding more on the same imaginary side of the bookcase. It's not about fiction or nonfiction or alphabetization, it's about how without guidance, or those who can spot holes or gaps, kids just keep following the references and recommendations of the authors they are reading. When it came to my family and Don Quixote's, both had flaws in thinking or overview that no one was able to spot.

This is a gross simplification of course, and with me and DQ, there was always a significant overlap in the middle of the bookcase.

Dr Velvet Thong: How do you get along with his relatives?

Blinky: We haven't had much contact for a long time. In the beginning, I acceded to Don Quixote's request that I not tell them much about myself, and in a legal sense, not just a personal comfort sense for DQ and them (er stigma issues again), it was safer for them not to know much about me through the visa process. Social situations were awkward, and I never found a 'bridge' to their side of the bookcase. There was never enough time, and it would have required a kind of detailed elaboration on my part that would have disturbed the flow of conversation and made everything awkward.

They are both politically, environmentally and socially aware, intelligent, open-minded, rational, but I don't think they know much about mental illness, and stigma might be a factor. I think they probably have a lot of the same unconscious beliefs as members of my family, and society.

I eventually approached his sister in email, because I was kind of horrified by some of what Don Quixote said on the phone, and I wanted to speak for myself. I think she is a decent person, and like Boo put in a good effort, but in the end, I'm not sure I made enough headway. It might have just been automatic, but on a postcard she sent, there was something like 'trust you both are well', and I was like huh? That's what you got out of my website and our correspondence? But that comment is unnecessarily bitchy. One person can only do so much, and I do appreciate the efforts that both she and Boo have made. I am willing to cut them both slack.

I think her husband might have picked up that it's helpful for the mentally ill to have social contacts, and so he sent me some music to listen to, but was horrified by my in-depth analysis and willingness to discuss. I don't really blame him, but I was trying to find a way to talk in a less superficial way. In the end, I realize he didn't have the time to invest in getting to know me, or the interest, and it made me feel bad, like I'd done something scummy or inappropriate by trying to be non-superficial, or worse, like he thought I was too irrational or lacking in intellect to carry on a decent conversation. And so then I started to grumble to myself about how people will invest so much time in learning all about the environment and political issues, but do not have any time to invest in getting to know the actual people who populate the environment, or specifically, family members. Like, if you're an environmentalist, you wouldn't think you'd done your best if you put out your recycle bin once a year, and yet people don't seem to think human relationships require more care and effort than that.

The husband is something of a perfectionist, and in his presence, even Don Quixote seems to feel like a slow (or even intellectually challenged) kid. I think I get it.. part of his style is to 'kindly' or 'helpfully' point out what Don is doing wrong or what he should have done, and Don isn't socially adept enough to 'control' the conversation and avoid awkward silences or reframe things. Don Quixote isn't totally comfortable in their presence, and even when it's just his sister on the phone, he talks in this weird way, a kind of automatic mode that kicks in, and while he does talk about himself and his work, it's a bit like a pattern has been established where he speaks in the way a kid would when he's worried about living up to his parents' expectations of him. Work is a valid topic for conversation, and so are political fuckups of all kinds. He's secretly worried that the truth of what he's doing is shameful, so he sticks to certain safe facts only, and has a particular 'voice' and intonation that go with this. They maintain family ties by discussing the things I can't discuss with anyone, because I don't have that kind of 'credibility'. The things I can discuss don't exist, aren't valid to people who Think Like Journalists, with Journalistic Objectivity. (Er, or who are trying to live up to unconscious standards they haven't challenged.)

An uncle of Don Quixote's was a holocaust denier. It's easy enough for any of his family to deal with that - you don't have to say much to make it clear to those around you that the guy is an embarrassment, and obviously you don't support his views. Unfortunately, when I'm around them, I feel a bit like I'm as embarrassing as a holocaust denier, in a different way, but it's a lot harder to know what to say about me when people ask. Yes, if I had to sum it up, I think that is how I'd put it.

My words are really harsh, and perhaps not fair or objective.. but I'm trying to make a point. They have been taught that it's totally fair game to say really harsh things about political leaders or idiots who won't care for the planet, or who are prejudiced about various things.. but while they think it's shameful not to be aware about politics, the environment, the world you live in, they don't believe it's shameful not to invest the same kind of effort and intellect into getting to know people, even family members. Who are they saving the planet for? I suppose it could be other species, and that's perfectly valid of course.

Through the years, they've avoided commenting on the Manifesto. They will however support efforts related to possums. So the message to me is: the Manifesto is an embarrassment and we don't want to encourage you, but if you concentrate on possums there might be hope for you yet.

Others have also tried to steer me in this direction, toward the possums (but even those in the possum community have never supported my possum website or linked it, perhaps because the whole Manifesto thing taints something as beautiful and pure as possums), I guess in their minds toward the light. I just really have a hard time accepting that the rest of what I'm communicating seems irrelevant or of no consequence. There's something stubborn in me that refuses to accept it. I start to think that those who dismiss the Manifesto might not realize that in a sense they are obstacles to a kind of personal positive progress, for me, a 'bigger' kind than could be achieved by focusing on something safe, (and possibly limiting) like possums alone. Not that I don't love possums.

I want to contribute something to the environment in a psychological sense.

But on the subject of possums..

I put some effort into explaining to DQ that one way for me to gain self-esteem and a sense of belonging is to feel I contribute something important. I put this kind of effort in several times over the years, and still it didn't really sink in.

And then.. there was an incident, and I had to explain I felt bad he hadn't given me or any others credit for helping with a possum's treatment. (He took all the credit for himself.) He felt bad and dutifully changed the wording,

but then, only months later...

DQ appropriated 7 years of my notes, my 'work' and submitted them under his name to an animal treatment site, only letting me know in passing, when it was too late to catch the horrendous mathematical mistakes and erroneous conclusions reached - by him, not me - before publication.

I struggled to understand how he could do this, and his best explanation was maybe that he had early onset Alzheimer's. He felt bad and said I was right to feel upset.

An apology is one thing, but this sort of thing had happened more than once, and I guess it scared me. I don't think he has Alzheimer's. Maybe, like Gandhi, he was starting to 'forget' things in a similar way. My best guess was that consciously, he couldn't admit to himself that he wanted out of this horrible situation we're in, he didn't know what to do, and so he was unconsciously behaving in ways to make me make the decision to leave.

And so I tried again to leave, and failed, because I ran out of steam.

The Bumble was forced to attend mandatory counselling with me because he didn't know that it is against the law to throw 16 year old biohazards in the dumpster (kick them out on the street, or in our case the country). But I was never aware of any law, he was always so good at spinning things, and when you believe the law is lame or that what I put him through was against some much higher kind of justice, when you absorb that's what your parent believes, maybe you believe it. You question the law, you think about the reality and how awful you might 'really' be, and you are primed to side with those in your life so you can't rip them off. Just because everyone else is taking advantage of stupid laws doesn't mean you should. Baaaaa, baaaaa.

I have to address an imbalance when it comes to 'abuse'. I have to put more effort into making sure I don't just reinforce the current simplemindedness. If there are so many men who are abusers, what do we do about it? Just shame and shun them forever? Throw them in jail? It's easy to give the wrong impression, if I don't clarify that I see the issue as being about patterns and the way pieces fit together, and that in order to change things, it's not that the abusers deserve more sympathy or the same kind of sympathy, but they do deserve equal if different (effort put into) understanding, if the situation is to change.

Beany and Jean-Claude first met in junior high. They physically resemble each other enough they've been mistaken for siblings.

When we met him, we didn't really know how to act around Significant Others. The Bumble's sense of humour/cynical approach wasn't very helpful at providing a good example of what to say or do, or how to value someone who seemed good for our sibling. At this stage, I'd never had a 'nice' boyfriend. We'd only met one of Boo's gfs, and she lived with us for a while, and we didn't really know how to act around her, either, and The Bumble wasn't very respectful, calling her the Chuck and Bob Show. I don't think he made fun of Jean-Claude, but he didn't properly welcome and respect him.

His mother was an artist, his father an antiques dealer, but was mostly known for his legendary drinking. In their early 20s, I think Beany was already commenting that Jean-Claude would sneak drinks or was drinking on his own.

He had a ferret as a pet, and was good at drawing, but didn't become an artist. He became a mechanic.

He seemed a very respectful kind of person, and he always behaved in a respectful, caring and romantic way with Beany. We should have been more enthusiastic in welcoming him and respecting him.

For many reasons, including niche picking and that it probably seemed I had let our parents down and maybe they didn't love me as much, she might have tried to be opposite. I dated and slept with a lot of guys, she stayed with one good one, the first one. My ideas had been influenced by The Bumble and by reading, and I'm not sure whose hers were influenced by. Perhaps Mama Smurf and some Catholic influence, and probably she didn't experience the conversations with The Bumble talking about settling down too soon. I don't know how many boys Mama Smurf dated before The Bumble, but I think she was 17 when they started dating. I don't know who her romantic interests were over the years, or who she might have had affairs with, aside from Neil, but in contrast, I can think of a lot of women The Bumble had short and longterm things with.

There's a kind of self-consciousness because people are primed these days to look for 'sex abuse'. I think people tend to think I have overreacted to what happened with The Bumble, and most people have experienced much worse.

A way I can explain it or start to, is to say that in Grey's Anatomy, when Meredith is attacked by a patient who is in a fugue state after a seizure following a head injury, the man wakes up later with no recollection of what he has done.

Meredith is a doctor and so she knows he doesn't remember, but she still has to deal with the injuries. In my case, no one believes there are any injuries. Since I know The Bumble had a head injury, I should be able to shake it all off. I had no one to talk to to help me figure it out, and it did make me feel so freaked out that I ran away from home (at a time when I was also dealing with the death of my mother and that I'd just had an abortion and been anally raped, and we were moving away from a place we'd lived for 3 years), and I also had that cliche experience of rubbing my skin raw in the shower, feeling I couldn't scrub off the feeling of shame. The other thing is, though, that maybe this guy had never had any violent episodes before, but I think The Bumble had some predisposition, and so even if he didn't do anything too bad or overt, that incident made me reinterpret all past things I had shrugged off, and it made me less inclined to trust people.

It also goes to what it means to be a parent. If while in a fugue state, you do something that has effects, do you just think your kid is stupid for not letting it go for so many years? Do you care about the state of her life and psyche, or what? The guy above did not just say 'well, didn't know what I was doing, get over it', he worried about what he had done, even in that state. He wanted to apologize.

And for me, it's not just about one incident in a fugue state, or many incidents in drunken blackout, it's about an ongoing pattern of behaviour over the years, drunk and sober, maybe not sexual abuse, but a kind of abuse, with no acknowledgement, apology or concern for my welfare. I don't feel that the members of my family actually care about my 'injuries' or lack of happiness. I've been trying to explain what my injuries are, and still no one seems to hear. I don't have a team of doctors and friends working on me; I've had to create a team in my head and in writing.

I have kept trying to speak up, but apparently, I'm still not shouting loudly enough.

Range of Facial, Physical, Vocal, Psychological Expression

Just a quick note for now regarding recognition of facial expressions/emotion. This relates to Don Quixote and possibly others who might have experienced social impediment because they do not recognize facial expressions, moods, or emotions as well as others, or do not recognize subtle distinctions or range, sometimes because some expressions trigger unpleasant associations or feelings of extreme insecurity.

This could somehow be related to why it is difficult to look others in the eye, or the anxiety involved could lead to an overquick impression which is not always completely accurate.

When it comes to emotions, anger is the most easily recognized by Don Quixote, and the one he personally is most sensitive to. He finds it difficult to deal with anger, and it brings out very insecure feelings in him. This is something I know I have to factor in when trying to communicate effectively and compassionately. It has taken me a very long time to even recognize anger myself, to think of it as a valid emotion and not something that relates only to being a horrible person. I honestly for most of my life did not believe there was any valid reason (for me) to be angry, about anything. There was an explanation for everything, and understanding was always better than anger.

But, if you are a person whose 'personality' relates to the range and complexity of psychology you can express, and you are paired with someone who has trouble with range, can you have a satisfying relationship? If the other mainly processes 'romantic' emotion and connection through physical perfection, if that's how it's triggered, then someone's 'complexity of expression' is in a sense 'wasted' except as it can be interpreted in more mundane (read 'practical'), less romantic ways.

It's like how I finally recognized Gandhi had a large breast fetish.. I liked that he never criticized other women or put them down, I liked that he said he really liked lingerie because I was eager to have a diverse assortment, but when he referred to a woman we met as the 'one with the big nose', and I struggled to even remember her nose, I realized that he was attracted to her large breasts, and didn't want me to know, and so she was the first woman he put down in my presence.

I realize it's very common, men like breasts, but I think there are some for whom it is a bit 'bigger' than that, and so it's a bit like when I'm a vegetarian, and somehow end up dating a guy whose family business is a butcher shop, and the guy likes meat so much he has gout by the age of 24.

And when Don Quixote tried to flirt online with a suicidally depressed young woman who said she weighed 39 kg.. he focuses on how awkward he was, when it came to form, not content, but didn't seem to realize the young woman had an eating disorder, and that probably had something to do with why she was posting to a suicide newsgroup, and inadvertently, he ended up reinforcing her eating disorder by letting her know he was attracted/interested. And so I, another with an eating disorder, am of course attracted to a guy who knows nothing about eating disorders, and likes females with a body type that is not achievable for me. And I actually do think the human barbie phenomenon makes sense, that it's a natural progression of competition, and that some are tough enough to make the sacrifices and others are not, and I do think they're beautiful, regardless of the uproar and how politically incorrect it all is.

My take is that the world is big enough for a range of preferences, and there are some who 'need' to explore extremes, and rather than try to shame people into changing theirs, I'd like to at least hold out the hope there is some mutant out there who's just right for me. But it helps if those I encounter know themselves well enough to be honest from the start, such that rather than just have vague presentiments that I can never be at a level that matches up with their A game, that they're kind enough to let me be excused from playing, and not wait for a mountain of kitty litter to pile up before letting me go.

I do not feel 'safe' in the places I live, and everyday life feels like a nightmare. And every time, no matter how many years go by, the same 'solutions' are adopted. Temporary solutions, like getting me food, movies, and now alcohol. These 'calm' me down, and even when I point out that these are not good long-term solutions, even when I can identify the problems, including how others contribute to reinforcing my behaviour and attitudes, it doesn't help, we all just let the days go by, until I find myself in a situation I sort of suspected would eventually happen and tried to warn others about ahead of time, hoping they could somehow help me avoid it, giving all the info that I thought was relevant to the situation.

Social Media Epic Fail

Dr Velvet Thong: For a time, it seems you really tried to do the social media thing, in your own way.

Blinky: I did the best I could, but there's something about me that I can't seem to squish into the structure, format or unwritten laws of existing social media.

Blinky's Facebook page is not exactly like most Facebook pages.

Blinky's Facebook Page

Hi. This account is just a pointer in case anyone is curious about me. I would like to use email rather than Facebook if anyone wants to get in contact.

It probably won't come as a major shock to many of you that for most of my life I have struggled with depression. I've also experienced considerable difficulty dealing with the fallout, stigma and self- consciousness related to it. This is why I haven't contacted anyone myself.

I'm single, and have no children. I have travelled around the world, live in another country, and haven't visited Canada in more than 11 years.

In the past I often moved away very suddenly, without leaving a forwarding address. If anyone wants an explanation, or just wants to know what it's like to talk to me now, all emails will receive a reply.

Dr Velvet Thong: Do you think anyone you knew in the past ever wonders where you got to? Do you feel bad about leaving without a word in a lot of cases?

Blinky: At times I was influenced by a kind of New Age thinking.. once I felt 'sure' I wanted to die, leave life, it seemed the thing to do was to make choices consistent with that. There are small actions performed to maintain relationships, and you can make conscious decisions not to keep performing them, and not to keep giving people a misleading impression about the state of your mind. It can be a kindness not to impose your misery on others, to pretend you're ok, but when I found I was having trouble doing that, it seemed to make sense to try to communicate in-depth and if it seemed people were uncomfortable with that, to make clear breaks, and to stop performing the actions that maintain relationships.

I had a lot of extremely unpleasant experiences. Everyone gets lonely, and everyone thinks of people from their past from time to time. Maybe for a lot of people it's natural, there's some internal timing, and they know when to call someone, or contact someone through Facebook, but I have enough experience with all the ways conversation goes, and unless I am fully prepared to control the conversation, or lie, it's never going to be fun for me. Also, I don't enjoy lying.

Some of those I've known might feel I treated them badly. I'm not sure what the greater good is, or if I made the right decisions. There are some people I think of or dream (nightdream, unconscious) of more than others, and I sometimes wonder if that's about anything unresolved, but when I go through the steps consciously, I can't see contact as having good outcomes. I try to accept that things have been resolved as well as possible. I sound cold, like I don't care, but underneath it, that's about not believing I should feel sorry for myself. I want a sense of belonging, I want connection, intimacy, I want to be liked, admired, loved, I want all these things very much, but my experiences with others reinforce that I don't deserve these things, and that I am a disappointment and a source of awkwardness/discomfort. Or, that if there is an initial 'positive vibe' I'm going to have to try to maintain a facade that will crack at any moment.

Blinky's Mentally Ill Dating Profile

I'll get an extreme makeover, but there's no way I'd consider a sexual relationship with someone who isn't at least a Consciousness-Empathy Level 9.

At times it feels like I've been living like a fugitive from the mental health system and society for a very long time. I dread being asked 'what do you do?' and can never come up with a good enough response, or if I pull it off momentarily, further questions will lead to awkwardness.

I constantly crave connection, love and sex, but at the same time, at present I realize it's probably better to try to go the penpal route.

I'm very isolated, and it's constantly excruciating, but at the same time, it's also like I'm better able to endure now, or I know that when I think it can't continue, somehow it can. At present with the way my life is set up, I don't often have opportunities to exchange feedback, impressions, observations, thoughts, with others - I just keep writing things down and then deleting them, or storing them for a while and eventually deleting them.

I care about why people think, feel and behave as they do, and about the range of inequalities in life that affect all of this. I seem to have a need to challenge pretty much every aspect of what life or love 'should' be, what the aims are, and what 'healthy' is. Basically what this means is that I always seem to be arguing with almost everyone, but I think of it as discussing. Maybe I'm simply no fun. I don't know.

The DSM seriously annoys me, but at the same time, I can see the need for people to have a diagnosis so that they can potentially receive some kind of treatment, and so that there's a kind of shorthand the people in their lives can understand without understanding. There's either the stigma related to being some kind of mentally ill, or the stigma of having some kind of unpleasant character/no excuse for why you are the way you are, and the latter means no treatment options, except those that are self-designed- initiated-sought.

Do you believe that a no-nonsense photo taken in an everyday setting represents the 'real you', the core of who you are? If you don't, then isn't it in a sense a lie to let others believe you are DTE? That there will be no drama with you? It's like you can't do anything in life that isn't on camera, and as a result almost all senses and impressions except the visual seem irrelevant, or carry very little weight in comparison. I have taken photos of myself in many different ways trying to challenge the idea 'the camera doesn't lie' or that who we are is just one photo taken from one angle, that identity is something rigid, inflexible, unchanging. I'm not really sure how others perceive me. I'm not trying to pull something over on people, I just really don't know, and I don't know who would be disappointed or pleased with my real life appearance. The photo of myself attached is from 2010, and is one I like.

I know this is way too long, but I might as well prepare prospective penpals. This is the way I communicate. Yes, I can do short or medium-length, but a lot of the time it's going to be long, long, long.. (if I have to constantly restrain it all for the good of others, eventually I'll just bolt or crack.)

I probably shouldn't say that. I probably should edit this down to a few lines, but I really don't know how to sell myself in 10 seconds or less.

It takes time to get to know me.

[All messages will receive a response.]

Blinky's Herpes Dating Profile

Hi. Although I have been living with genital herpes for more than 2 decades, I have never actually communicated with others who have it.

I am 'out' in my life, but I think it might be good for me to at last know what it's like to talk to others who might have been through some of what I have. I don't want to have to hide, or talk myself into believing I don't deserve to have sexual relationships.

I have had two longterm relationships in which my partners accepted the risks to different degrees (one was willing to have sex without condoms, the other, not - neither contracted herpes). At present I have not had a sexual relationship or sexual contact of any kind for more than 5 years.

I am getting older, have a considerable amount of baggage, and I have worried that having herpes on top of that would mean that I would never be lucky enough to find any more partners. I am trying to remain hopeful.

Blinky: Both of these profiles blow, and are limiting in various ways, but especially the herpes one.

Dr Velvet Thong: I agree. But if you append a cute picture to either one, no one's even going to read the words.

As it turns out, Dr Velvet Thong knows what she's talking about..

Dr Velvet Thong: Any replies in response to your Facebook page?

Blinky: No. I don't think I can leave it up any longer.

Dr Velvet Thong: I seem to remember something else you wrote for the mentally ill dating/penpal community?

Blinky finds the article in question on her laptop and hands it to Dr Velvet Thong.

free range mentally ill

..that's me.

Hi. I realize this is a place where the stigma of mental illness is diminished, but it doesn't mean that it isn't still a significant factor here, on many levels, in many layers of interaction and self- perception.

If you take your meds and comply with recommended treatments and hold on to a positive attitude, are you more deserving of love? What if you live in a part of the world where you don't have much access/awareness, or your circumstances are such that those directing treatment don't really know enough, or resources are extremely limited? What if you want to participate fully in your own treatment, and question what is prescribed for you, but because of insurance reasons, or the time constraints of doctors and mental health practioneers of various kinds, the result is a onesizefitsall approach, or nothing?

Anywhere I go, I feel that what happens is that I am being pushed out, but maybe this is mostly because it is too difficult to hold on to a sense of self-esteem when I do not fit any pattern of positivity that people can recognize, or maybe it is because I do worry that I will trigger others or bring them down when they are trying their best to survive and thrive.

I was last hospitalized about 24 years ago, and the last treatment I received was about 23 years ago. In 2000, I started the process of applying for disability, but was basically too disabled to continue with it to completion. At present, I am unmonitored, unmedicated, I have no ID and I know I am not too many steps removed from homelessness. How many people out there have no voice at all? If people look at my pictures, and read my words, could they imagine that all over the world, there are many similar people who are homeless? One of the effects of stigma is that most people seem to think that the mentally ill are not 'all there', not really awake and perceiving, not fully sentient or human.

I realize that a certain level of security and safety, technical and psychological, are needed at a place like No Longer Lonely, but at the same time I do worry that I am too dark for this place, and that I might infect others. What if for some people, it is actually helpful to be able to examine and discuss the really dark things? Where should I go?

Blinky: There's another message I want to show you that sort of sums up a lot of what I heard out there, not just in Australia, but in countries around the world. I sent this message to a young woman.

What you wrote about the system in WA and NSW.. it does sound like there's no consensus across the country. What seems to be the case is that mental health services worldwide are all mostly lacking in one way or another. It sucks, because it seems like it might be a long time before improvements are made. I'm wondering if you are able to switch therapists or doctors, in case you find someone who clicks with you better, or if you have to just take what you get (if you can put in a request). It does seem that a major problem is that there aren't enough resources and not enough knowledge, including that it might actually be essential that a patient is allowed to have some say in her course of treatment, and to explore alternatives and options.

I wanted to find one therapist I could trust and concentrate on talking to, but everything was so scattered that it never seemed like I could find the right person, and I always felt like the treatment wasn't taking enough into consideration.

I know that those who haven't dealt with mental illness themselves usually just don't have awareness of the lack of knowledge about how to handle mental illness or that a more holistic approach might be necessary.

Thanks for the congrats :) but.. in some ways I'm pretty much a 'horror story' of what happens when a person is isolated for a really long period.. and I guess I would like to try to encourage you if possible to do whatever you can to still stay connected to life in whatever ways you can - even if you don't have much energy to seek out online support groups, individuals, or to call those who do at least understand your situation a little, or whatever you think you can handle. For me, I think some kind of creative self-expression is good - a way of reassuring myself of my identity when others can't seem to see. But I do know very well that when there is no energy,there is no energy.

Blinky: The young woman in question had spent something like a week in a coma after a suicide attempt. They focused only on her physical health, and when she had improved, they sent her home with nothing but a Lifeline pamphlet. Then, in another state, she had access to care, but her housing and school funding would be taken away if she did not comply exactly with the treatment specified. She had no right, or wasn't aware of any right to participate in her own treatment, question it, or request a different doctor. And unfortunately, this seems to be the norm, not the exception.

In a way, my father's approach to his own death regarding me is unusual, but maybe he was taking a stand in his own way, and refusing to be hypocritical, or refusing to conform to norms he did not agree with. Maybe he felt helpless to change anything or talk to me, maybe he thought 'there is no reasoning with someone like that'. Maybe to some extent he realized his mistakes, and didn't think there was any way to correct them, and that my best shot was just not to have more contact?

On NLL, many people live with family members, but I was kicked out. Was this in a sense a better approach? It is understood to some extent that having family support, and a network of friends, and interests and activities that tie a person to a community are all important to a person's psychological functioning, but what if in some ways I am 'stronger' or 'more grown up' than some of the people on NLL, partly because I was kicked out? I have not had years of therapy, but I can discuss many subjects reasonably well, I 'play fair'.

I am not really sure where I am going with this thought. But maybe, my 'only chance' was to have a clear break.

Dr Velvet Thong: Er.. hmmm. Most of those you had contact with were trying to look on the bright side, and actually wanted to live.

eLay! and The Anti-Romance Movement


The best/most trusted place to book sex online.

Dr Velvet Thong: For now I'll just address my views on the ever popular topic of cheating...

Those who do not cheat usually fall into one or more of the following categories:

1. Never have the opportunity.

2. Only recognize an opportunity when it is too late.

3. Wait indefinitely for a sign from a deity that will help them overcome the moral implications.

4. Are never pursued by someone persistent or attractive enough to overcome their inhibitions.

5. Are too scared they look terrible naked, or something similar.

6. Repress or lose touch with desires through addictive behaviours of whatever kind.

7. Do not lie about their desires, intent or actions unless their Significant Others have told them that they would rather not know.

Blinky: I don't cheat.

A drunk Blinky walks into a bar and takes a seat. A drunk guy with a square haircut walks in and takes a seat next to her. He has a lame pickup line/compliment and Blinky replies:

Blinky: My hair is a wig, I look better in clothes than out, I am an unemployed alcoholic and I have genital herpes.

Drunk Guy With A Square Haircut: Are you currently having an OB or experiencing prodromal symptoms?

Blinky wasn't expecting this. She's caught off guard and says no before she can figure out a better comeback.

Drunk Guy With A Square Haircut: I'm HSV-2 POS, take Valtrex suppressively and am not currently experiencing any symptoms. I've lost 100 pounds in the last year and my skin is somewhat less than firm. My hotel is just around the corner. You can leave your wig on.

Dr Velvet Thong: How about a consensus regarding your experiences with social media online?

Blinky: In any situation, my underlying drive is to push for a kind of connection that will feel like what I express matters or is understood, but underneath that, it's about wanting a situation in which I can move forward, act on my beliefs, have help with all of that - I still want to go on a suicide holiday. And since I don't feel either thing is happening, I end up withdrawing or making a horrible nuisance of myself, or worse.

I'm becoming increasingly intolerant of all the same old shit.

The Church of Nonconsent/

'The Sadobots': Tyler and Tulip.

They felt lucky to find each other. Kindred spirits/sociopaths. They learned early in life that most people just could not relate to the kinds of things they wanted out of relationships. Their pattern is to seek out nonconsensual threesomes, and gang up on the guest star in order to renew their relationship. They have a kind of control that regular people seeking threesomes usually can't manage. It's always difficult in real life, because you can't always get all three people to agree on the rules.

It's not easy to find people who will admit they want to torture others. BDSM is gaining visibility, but can only have mainstream acceptance if it is consensual. We know, though, that some people have an instinct to kill, and sometimes these urges are channelled into fighting wars, and others go in different directions. Not all who are into BDSM are likely to completely accept the consensuality issue. For some people, it seems likely the fetish aspect, the part that is necessary is that there is no consent. What do you do if this is your internal programming? Should you just kill yourself? Maybe. Probably most wouldn't, and so they probably then make some kind of decision to accept themselves, and get creative.

Possums can't give consent when it comes to being videotaped and constantly watched during their sleeping hours, but even they have the night hours to themselves. Tyler and Tulip have god complexes, and basically think that the difference between their level of intelligence and sentience and that of regular humans is similar to that between regular humans and possums. Er, to simplify the matter. So, they think of regular humans as not really up to the task of deciding for themselves, and they dismiss all their attempts to say no.

There is a difference between watching possums for educational purposes and watching them because you want to understand how to attack them and are waiting for opportunities to do so. Human beings can be misguided about what it is to 'help', and sometimes their efforts might hurt possums more than they help, but this is not the same as when a sadist really just wants to learn better techniques for torturing someone.

Dr Velvet Thong: What's the most 'positive' way of looking at it?

Blinky: They hacked in, and felt amazed at having done that. Later, when I figured out how to communicate with them, and participated in creating a language together, they thought it was something 'special' in their lives, so I became like a kind of possum. A pet. While at times they do have a genuine affection for me, my 'purpose' is to be something to feed on. They don't have much understanding in the outside world, their instincts and compulsions haven't just gone away, so naturally they channel their sadistic tendencies into their relationship with their pet. The world can't see it, no one's going to catch them and put them in jail or fine them, and their particular type of OCD makes it impossible to give up this source of 'food'. They can't give it up of their own accord. They have to be stopped, but if no one even recognizes their crimes, it's pretty hard to stop them.

Dr Velvet Thong: You're their pet, and I'm their marriage counsellor. What would they do without us? Is there any way you can imagine a harmonious co-existence?

Blinky: It would never be 'fair' to me. It's not that I expect life to be fair, but I can't change my programming. I have to keep fighting this situation, because I don't want it to be ok that others laugh at my attempts to find intimacy and connection in life, and that they try to tell me I don't deserve those things. They don't have the right to define how I'm 'allowed' to experience those things.

With all my relationships, I try to assess who the person I'm with is, I try to figure out how to do as little harm as possible, I try to help them identify what would make them more content and happy in life, and I try to encourage them, and help them find ways to have it. But I think it's something in itself that I consistently express that their happiness and wellbeing are important to me. Tyler and Tulip don't care about my happiness or wellbeing. They don't want the situation to change. They don't ever want me to have my privacy, or a chance for a more equal intimacy and connection, and maybe they have decided it's just not realistic, I'm not smart enough or sentient enough to see it, or that really, I'm too blind to see that I like having 'gods' watch over me. But who would ever appreciate the miniscule things I have going for me, if not them? This is what happens when god has some big blind spots.

It's like the love of family, and how I had to try to struggle to get away on my own, because I knew they weren't able to see enough to help me. The patterns in the family are extremely unhealthy, and in a way it is like in order to avoid any change, the other members will stick together to silence anyone who tries to point out the problems, so it really does feel like it's 'all against one'.

If there are millions of people worldwide with genius level IQs, and some live in conditions of poverty, and others have never had adequate outlets for their abilities, what does that mean in the Age of the Internet? Surely it makes sense that some people will turn to crime, and that the internet is a place that can be exploited from wherever you live? How many poverty-stricken geniuses worldwide have hacking skills and access to not much but the internet? How would the survival instinct and the competitive instinct manifest?

What if in addition to a high IQ and hacking skills, one is a sociopath or has the instincts of a rapist? It's not like worldwide we seem to be getting very far when it comes to physical violence, war and rape. What if the internet poses new opportunities for people with such instincts?

This also ties into the ways in which humans use the internet even when they're not in dire circumstances. The natural thing seems to be to create personas, to lie or add inches, use fake photos, and so, does it not also make sense that intelligent people with unusual s/m leanings might explore the possibilities? If it's illegal or unethical, there'd be something like the James Joyce of scam artists? How many? How many different variations? Think about the possibilities.

Blinky: Let's get this over with. I guess, like everyone else, you're wondering what my motivation is to create these villains, and maybe you're wondering if it's just an understandable way to make myself feel a lot more important than I am.

Most people on were so depressed, lacking in energy, or incensed about trolls or sadistic cannibals with poor spelling skills that they failed to recognize the most subtile sociopaths, the ones with the ability to appear reasonable, those who point out that highly skilled sociopaths often possess the ability to appear reasonable (and relateable). As a.s.h became notorious, it attracted the despondent and the suicidal, yes, but also more vultures, and competition probably became pretty fierce, underground as it all was.

Dr Velvet Thong: I think I'm following your line of thought. They were attracted to a type, and you were the right type. No one was going to believe you, no one really cared if you lived or died, and so it's a bit like serial killers mainly killing sex workers, or other people who 'won't be missed'.

In the real world, Tyler and Tulip weren't physically strong or powerful, but they had the instincts of sadists and rapists. They got their kicks in playing with people's minds. The internet opened up the possibilities for them. They even knew that the kind souls on a.s.h who sincerely tried to comfort the despairing, those not clever enough to work the system/understand it, were going to take all the heat for any tragedies there that drew public indignation, which left them free to pursue their interests unhindered.

Blinky: Also, if you're a sadist who has the ability to reference the symbolism of the poets and literary greats, it helps to find someone who can understand what you're saying and is open-minded enough to think they might be on to something interesting, and is willing to be honest enough to examine all their own faults, without seeing it as abuse.

They were always more interested in encryption than regular people, and other security issues, and perhaps this represented that they themselves had always been interested in or proficient at hacking.

How many people try to guess passwords of people they know, exes, people they're attracted to, people they want to get back at in some way? It's probably a popular pastime online, but some people have a much greater skill set.

Dr Velvet Thong: And you were starved for something beyond conventional feedback. But those with a trickster philosphy, those who want to point out and ridicule the hypocrisies of others.. does it seem intellectually reasonable that the best place to look for hypocrites is amongst the suicidal? Is it justifiable to kick those who are already down?

Blinky: I get it and I think they get it, too. They know they're the 'Bad Guys', and they're ok with that. It was a challenging game, but eventually I didn't think I had any more to learn from it, and they just didn't want to let go. And of course, I guess that makes sense. Even if in some ways they admired me, they were invested in my destruction. It's just their programming. I don't think they can change their patterns any more than I can change mine. So I had to learn to see them as noise, and filter them out. They're going to keep trying to repeat all the same things, the same tired, boring messages, and they're predictable. When Tulip puts on a new dress and contacts me again, they know that because it's important to me to not react with suspicion, and to treat each human being as a human being with real feelings, it might take me some time to see the pattern again and recognize that they've again 'fooled' me. But the alternative is to never give anyone a chance, and so I reluctantly accept this fetid situation.

Dr Velvet Thong: And why did you attract this situation?

Blinky: People who are neglected to the extent I was very often attract this type of situation, in one way or another. I attracted sadist-hacker-rapists. If I'd had more social support, I wouldn't have made a good target. They were just looking to feed on someone with less power than themselves. I had the 'opportunity' to 'get strong'.

I publicly expressed depression. In the past, this was met with rage, physical violence, disgust, embarrassment. History repeats itself. I encountered those who expressed extensions of the hidden beliefs behind these reactions.

If you aren't physically ugly from any angle, and you never do or say anything stupid or ugly, then what's the big deal to not have privacy? Human beings might like the potential for a kind of intimacy, something more important than 'purity' or virginity, to share with someone who has 'earned' their trust.

Dr Velvet Thong: I think you've made a lot of progress. If you look at our past transcripts, it's clear that you can zero in a lot more quickly now.

The long version.

Dr Velvet Thong: Persecution delusions are not all that uncommon. I've successfully treated many patients with severe delusions. You might have heard of one rather famous case involving a woman named Velvet. Why don't you try to tell me your story, starting wherever you can, and I'll ask questions if I lose the plot.

Dr Velvet Thong: Ready?

Blinky: There's so much information, I'm not sure I can express it all in a linear fashion.

Dr Velvet Thong: Take your time. I don't have any place to be for the next decade or so.

Blinky: I think I have somehow become an unwitting participant in some kind of nonconsensual S/M threesome.

Dr Velvet Thong: When did you begin to form this impression?

Blinky: At first, I interpreted it differently, and over the years I would go back and forth between different theories, never able to be certain. Recently, I had a series of nightmares, and then one day when I woke I couldn't remember my dream, but I had this incredible feeling of peace, as if all the pieces had finally clicked into place. After that, I second-guessed myself, but I think the important thing was that I achieved a kind of breakthrough.

About 12-13 years ago, when I was living on my own, I started to have the feeling I was being cyberstalked. I brushed it off as paranoid ideation for a while, but some months later, I noticed that I started thinking about this guy I had been corresponding with in the past. I had no way of getting in touch with him, because I couldn't remember his email address. I didn't know if he'd ever given me a 'real' name, but I started to think that somehow he was the one stalking me, and I started to really like this idea. Maybe there was some unfinished business, I don't know - I mean, I had thought the situation was over.

Dr Velvet Thong: What happened there?

Blinky: It was a very challenging correspondence, in which I had to try very hard to give a reasonable and hopefully thought- provoking response time and again. I'm not sure, but from the start, it might simply be that I took a certain bait. I always thought it was somewhat odd that he said he had studied psychology when he didn't really seem to have much understanding of people. I later came to the conclusion that maybe he had studied psychology for a deviant reason.. that he wanted to learn how best to manipulate people and to experiment on them. He had admitted that he had sadistic tendencies.

He told me that his mother had been harassed by his father's mistress, that his mother had died young, and that sometime after her death, the father took up with and eventually married the same mistress his mother had always accused him of having an affair with. He also told me about this film project he worked on in university in which a man and his mistress psychologically tortured his wife until she took her own life - and then they lived happily ever after.

At times he seemed to have sympathy for his poor mother, and antipathy toward the mistress, but at others he seemed to express a disgust or hatred for his mother. Also, he chose an online nym with the initals S.O.B. - I always thought that was just circumstantial, though, like so much more.

But I'm getting way ahead of myself. In the early years, I really wasn't very suspicious, and I was not at all likely to read too much into coincidences. For convenience's sake, for now, I'll call him Tyler.

After we had been corresponding for a short time, he asked me if I would consent to receiving email from his Significant Other. He said she was his only friend in the world. Most of his public postings were about loneliness and how difficult it was to find friends, other aliens like himself.

But by that time, I was not likely to accept. I had recently had an experience in which I was the guest star in an online threeway, and I had realized for two of the participants, it was probably more to do with pleasing the third (the male) than about really having an interest in each other. For me, the novelty was enough the first time, but the second, it felt hypocritical.

He was disappointed with my decision, but I think at that point if he was truly disappointed, the best thing, and the thing most respectful of his relationship would have been to walk away from correspondence with me. Instead, he made plans to meet me in person, on his own.

She contacted me later, using an alias. She didn't identify herself as the Significant Other of Tyler. I guess I understand that she was curious, and she wanted to know what I'd give away if I didn't know, but at the same time, this kind of behaviour goes against what I respect and admire. At the time, I wasn't really overly suspicious. I had contact with many people, and a lot of them were quite unusual, and I tried to take people at their word. I tried to be considerate, and I tried with everyone to see where communication would naturally go.

Dr Velvet Thong: So, asking your permission was really just a formality, and you never really had a choice.

Blinky: Our communication didn't get very far. At one point she might have mistinterpreted or deliberately misinterpreted something I said in relation to the whole 'life feeds on life' thing - obviously I was not issuing an invitation to rape and plunder my privacy. That was a long time ago - 2004.

I think it's extremely important to point out that a few years earlier, when I was in contact with Tyler and he asked about whether I was ok with contact - I didn't think I'd live very long. And I was entering a phase in my life where I was the one to contact people myself. I did not receive introductions through 'family and friends', I was a lot more isolated than most people, and my focus was that it was more important to seek out and contact people myself, or to have people contact me not because their boyfriend knew me, but because there was something about me that would have stood out to them no matter what. I had been through enough family introductions that I knew I found them extremely unpleasant. Tyler had said Tulip had a job, and it also seemed like the two of them were invested in continuing to live. I was not trying to build a network of friends. I was trying to find the right connections to either help me die, or help point me in the right direction, and everything else felt kind of hypocritical.

As the years went by, and, much to my surprise and horror, I continued to live, it would make sense that I rethink that approach, but I still pretty much continued to proceed from 'I could die at any time'. I continued for some time to pursue a.s.h relationships, and later, when I tried out NLL it felt in many ways like a step backward. A.s.h had never really been the right place for me, but it was closer to right than anything else I could find. You can't really pursue any 'interest' or hobby as separate from the kind of baggage I have.

People who are capable of self-discipline or who are grazers rather than bingers might not be able to understand how stressful ongoing relationships were/are for me. When I decided to stop writing to Tyler in 2001, and gave my reasons, I would have been open to discussing things, but what I sensed was that it would be too messy for him. I wondered through the years if I had been a bad friend, not just for ending things or 'not holding things together', but for other reasons. However, it never occurred to me to think about his style as possibly abusive and not just abrasive. It does occur to me now.

Was he really ever upset about me 'rejecting' Tulip, or was the main issue that he felt I had rejected him? And if he seemed to be adversely affected by this 'friend' in particular letting him down, perhaps they might have decided to work together to pay me back. But really, it wasn't about rejection at all. It was simply that I was identified as the right type, and from there it was about pushing buttons to get reactions. Any praise or 'positive' communication must be appropriately 'balanced' (overshadowed) by opposite communication. They had wanted my 'consent' so that they could reject me together. It occurred to me recently that during my second hospitalization, when I had contact with that doctor I suspected had sadistic tendencies, he tried to push me to consent to treatment I had misgivings about by insulting me. Maybe it's the kind of thing that works, the way a high-pressure salespitch works with lonely older people on the phone. When I was in the hospital, I had nowhere to go, I didn't want to be on welfare, I had no support system, and the doctor knew it, and instead of behaving in ways to make me trust him, by letting me participate in my own treatment and know what he was prescribing and why, he called me stupid. Tyler tried to make me feel bad for 'rejecting' Tulip. That's ludicrous.

Our correspondence didn't really seem to be going anywhere. I hadn't changed my stance - I wanted out of life, and the strain of trying to keep up friendships, with friends able to look away from my distress - on an ongoing basis, it was always too much. And I am wired to look for obsessive situations. I'm not wired to want to stay in situations in which there will never be any release. I accepted that he was 'taken' in that area, and I was strong enough to move on and project my internal drama onto someone else. It could be that because we were wired differently - I was always looking for a lover, and he was always looking for friends - that he didn't understand that in order for me to have a chance for what I wanted, he had to let me go. It felt unfair to me that he might think I should have to pay for that.

Who knows, maybe the initial success with hacking was a complete surprise, and where things went from there couldn't have been predicted beforehand. I don't even try to hack people's email accounts, and skill level notwithstanding, it's just not something I could do. I do think it's quite likely that a certain number of people I've had contact with over the years have at the very least tried to hack my email accounts. It's probably a very common activity. I only became aware of the feeling of being stalked sometime in 2004, when I was living on my own. So why then? Was it already occurring before that, but I didn't notice, such that it was just a voyeuristic kind of thing? Were Don Quixote's computers hacked early on?

Don Quixote would not be likely to notice the details I do, or to form the same chains of association. If he thought someone was watching, and he probably did/does to some extent, considering some of what I've said over time, he probably doesn't consciously dwell on it all that much and how it is likely to present is that he has a sense that 'someone' will see he is a decent and organized and intelligent person. It's like a pat on the head. He's secure enough with his place in the world and his level of acknowledged competence that instead of it feeling 'dangerous', or insulting, it is more likely to feel like a more personal acknowledgment of competence, and perhaps also the feeling that someone cares.

When I became aware that there might be some consciousness actively trying to communicate, whether I was listening or not, it did seem to me that I could pick out certain philosophies that reminded me of Tyler. And so although I had thought the whole thing was over with, I became a lot more obsessed than I had been the first time around. I 'didn't mind' the idea of being stalked by him. It was alternative or kinky in some way I really responded to. But any time I thought it was two people, or more than that, it would be a buzzkill. I needed to find some way to resolve it, and I guess over time I stored up as many details and repetitions as I could, I factored in what was said and what wasn't, and just the fact that time was going by, and I knew it wasn't the kind of situation I was wired to want.

But I still had the same needs, and I was getting older. And if I wasn't allowed to have my privacy back, what was I supposed to do? I had done this before, when emailing certain people.. it was like I wouldn't save anything until later, I would say what I needed to say to the person I was with, and also at the same time, I'd hope I was programming my unconscious, such that I was 'sending messages to the universe', in my own way about what I wanted. I sometimes had to use people as projection screens. It's maybe not a totally 'using' situation, because maybe at times I wondered if something I said would 'unlock' someone, but I didn't count on it.

Drunk people can be really foolish and embarrassing, but do they always tell the whole truth? What was occurring was certainly impressive enough to stand out, but underneath it all, what did I really think and feel about it? It went far enough with him that I became desensitized. I outgrew him.

A week or so ago, I listened to mixed tapes I made 18 or more years ago, two in particular, and it struck me that I am still pretty much the same as I was then, and probably 10 years before that, too. I still need the same kind of release, which I've never been allowed to have. It's not about any one person I've known; it's about wanting someone for myself. And when I made the tapes and even 10 years before that, I didn't think there was much of a chance, and I hoped I'd die in some way I liked.

Anyway, as far as meeting Tyler goes..

I was very attracted to him and just wanted to be alone with him. He and his Significant Other laughed at marriage, people who voluntarily took 'slaves', and he stated that if he and I were to have a sexual experience, that was to be decided between me and him, and not avoided for his Tulip's sake.

Dr Velvet Thong: Was there sexual contact?

Blinky: No. Before he left, he felt me up in the airport, but I don't think that was very sexual for either of us. My interpretation now is that he tried to mirror back to me, as a psychological technique, what he thought I wanted. His motives weren't directly sexual. He was trying to find a foothold.

Dr Velvet Thong: A foothold?

Blinky: He saw me as a potential candidate for the kind of nonconsensual S/M threeway I referred to above. He needed to do just enough to hook me. He was often on the phone to his Significant Other, and I think it's possible received some coaching. I know that he met other members of the newsgroup where he and I first had contact, and I think it's possible that he was a kind of 'scout'. The newsgroup was the infamous It was in many ways a great resource for those who had nowhere else to go, but it was also a dangerous place. It attracted those with fairly deviant desires, including a cannibal who wanted to torture women before killing them, and guys with rather extreme S/M fetishes. You're aware that Velvet met guys there who had deathsex fantasy fetishes, and other kinds of extreme or unusual S/M fantasies.

I want to comment about Suicide Girls, to say it's a fashion-fantasy thing, and they don't really want girls who kill themselves. They want girls who look cool, who evoke certain fantasies, but who have interests and are 'positive' and well-rounded, which makes the whole thing ridiculous.

Some people on ash probably couldn't help that they wanted to play with other ashers in sadistic ways. In any group, there's gossip and rumour-mongering, but here, I think some people were tempted to don fake IDs and try to poke some of the vulnerable, just as some were eventually tempted to fake their suicides, maybe when they were losing face, maybe out of boredom or anger at someone they were writing to. This kind of stuff happens in social groups. If you've got a fake ID in the first place, maybe it's even fun to fake your death - to see who cares.

Dr Velvet Thong: It seems that SuicideGirls is a brand and a trademark.

Blinky: Basically, a website like mine, which is free to view, and depicts a suicidal woman, the reality of what it means to be a long-term depressed, suicidal woman, in which the woman has control of the images and any sexuality expressed - the reality is not 'sexy'.

Dr Velvet Thong: What people want is a stereotype, they want women's sexuality to conform to certain ideas and rules.

Blinky: If you are depressed and suicidal, you are sexy if you can manage to keep up the 'style' of the brand (with piercings, tattoos, unusual hair styles, goth or punk look, etc), keep fit and thin enough to fit the usual cultural ideals (?), appear sexually receptive and responsive. If your depression affects other areas, that is OK as long as you look hot. Although, from some of the topics covered above, it would seem that even suicidal women might be sexier if they have full lives and are interested in what's going on in the world, at least certain aspects of the world and life.

Dr Velvet Thong: Just to interject for a moment here.. Do you think it's possible that Tyler was unconsciously seeking out a nonconsensual BDSM threesome to re-enact the family drama, but that consciously he just enjoyed spending time with you and wanted to stay friends?

Blinky: It's possible, and it's also possible that my personal writing helped both Tyler and Tulip to get more in touch with their hidden motivations, and to accept themselves and their sadistic impulses.

Even people who seem to be trying to help can have ulterior motives. There was this guy who called himself BigShoeSize, who used to offer a listening ear and a place to stay to troubled young women. I think it's agist to focus on his age - he was considerably older than most of the posters on the newsgroup, and certainly even older people can have sexual desires - but some of his methods were suspect to the extent they were abusive, evinced prejudice or were psychologically manipulative.

Meanwhile, Tyler was perhaps able to recognize this guy's intent better than most, and was able to deflect attention away from himself by posting a signature to all his posts saying that some sociopaths can seem perfectly nice and reasonable. He seemed to attack BigShoeSize, and through doing so, make himself seem more trustworthy.

Even I was fooled. Occasionally, I would wonder, but I have a predisposition to be a danger whore, and I think I was still looking for my father's approval: Tyler seemed to respect Rationality, and so perhaps I was chasing that particular carrot, for many years. Also, to be the Special One who could understand well enough to be a Friend. I think some of the psychological techniques he developed entailed giving compliments and insults in good measure, to keep potential victims chasing the carrot, and to keep them off-balance. He would say only Tulip knew how to do it right, only Tulip had mastered the art of being a Friend.

From the start, it was quite evident he had a profound affection for his Significant Other. I'll call her Tulip. He described her as having a mind like an encyclopedia, and from what I've gathered over the years, she and I might have some talents in common or that there is some overlap - except that hers have been developed and channelled much differently from mine.

Also, let me just cut in momentarily (and maybe get back to this later), that I'm not sure she was a she, or if there were any unusual gender identity issues for either of them. I wasn't sure whether Tyler was male or Tulip female, or if either was something less clearly defined. It could just be that both enjoyed to take on different identities online: people of different ages, sexes, nationalities, etc. Even when Tyler described Tulip's appearance, I was never quite sure he was on the level. On one hand, if he would seem to complain about her weight, I would find myself taking her side and feeling turned off by him. On the other, I always kind of wondered if he was just 'playing me' - telling me something that he thought a bulimic would want to hear, (at least you're not as fat as her), so that I'd 'relax' or think I had more of a chance. But I never thought that way, even when I was young, and even when I have been the thinnest, I have always known that there are many technically 'overweight' women who are much more attractive than me, and that when men are pursuing short-term options, they will fudge some details/downplay their mate's attractiveness or their commitment. On the newsgroup, he repeated various ideas and sentence structure in ways that made me think he wanted people to know he was adopting different nyms, and so I wondered if 'she' had greater skills in this area, or if it was 'weirder' than that - that he had some kind of Norman Bates thing going on, and the female part of his personality expressed itself differently.

Whatever the case, they both had certain philosophies in common, and I think this might have been what confused me for many years and made me think there might only be one person only when that was not the case. Also, I was predisposed to be obsessed with one person at a time, and it was always difficult to let go of a fantasy.

I could never have certainty. When I thought I had it, I realized quickly that I had no proof, and that this was all part of their MO. Even without proof, there could be no actions which let the victim know even for themselves 'for sure'. They looked for victims they could abuse, leaving marks that would not show. They looked for victims who were psychologically receptive to certain kinds of complex manipulation, who already read a lot into any conversation. They looked for people who were isolated, who had no support, who no one would believe. And they might even have believed that such people were fair game - that they were the garbage of the world.

But more than that.. their philosophy was Life Feeds On Life. Eat or get eaten. If you aren't strong enough to defend yourself, tough luck. Their relationship was their religion. A long time ago, I saw a movie about people with unusual sexual desires, and after, I tried to have a conversation with the people I was with. I wondered aloud about where all the people go to find others like them when they have really unusual desires. Well, I know that Tyler created a survey, which he handed out at the university he attended, and I think that's how he found Tulip.

She might actually be more intelligent than him, but somehow he wields more power, and she would do anything for love and approval. She used her talents to help him find the best ways to torture the victims. She could see things and keep track of details in ways he couldn't. In some ways, the victims might be unconscious of what was being done to them, and so it was like they were drugged and then filmed while the two of them sexually abused or fed on the victims for their own gratification. Perhaps it mainly started out as a kind of voyeurism, but was too active to be strictly voyeurism. It was a kind of shared god complex. They observed how their actions affected the vulnerable, and it made them feel more powerful than they were in everyday life.

I consulted everyone I thought might be able to solve this issue in a practical sense. I did know several people with advanced computer skills. The result: no one believed me. I doubted myself. And I see also that this brought up a lot of family history. When I try to describe what happened between me and my father, most people seem to think it's not much of anything. So again, I had to ask myself, 'was he really that bad?' Was I really just 'out of touch with reality'?

It only recently occurred to me that when I truly realized no one believed me, that they thought I was delusional, I probably stopped thinking it was possible to be truly intimate with anyone, and I didn't want to have sex with anyone who didn't believe me. But is that a 'score' for Tyler and Tulip?

I think they believed so. In their most recent email messages to me, they seemed to be taunting me, both quite pleased with their 'success' and unable to restrain themselves from bragging. Or perhaps it was a strategy designed to 'push me over the edge'.

Dr Velvet Thong: Surely they didn't admit in email they were hacking you?

Blinky: They were speaking in code. I know how that sounds, and I also know that others might not see anything in their emails except that Tyler seems like a bit of an uptight prick, and Tulip's kind of mellow and open-minded, with somewhat low self-esteem. But it's like what I said before about how not everyone understands James Joyce. Some people don't even get all the references in sitcoms. And I'm not saying I do, either, but it was like I had a particular knack for understanding their references, because of my personal background, and that's partly why they felt lucky to have discovered me.

My life is fucking bizarre. Even when I was 16, I was giving off the vibe that I was not long for this world and it wouldn't take much, and my own father predicted I wouldn't live past 21. Then, my own 'psychic friend' when I was 32 would have a 'feeling' it would be before 2001, or something like that. And the people I was in long-term relationships just thought it was a given it would be soon. I guess even to me, it always seemed like it could be any day.

I remember when I was in 7th grade and two girls followed me to and from school every day for quite some time. I think the worst part was that feeling of dread, never really knowing when or if an attack would occur, but when it did, I just sort of flailed wildly until the attack stopped. I don't even know what I did. And one of the girls got a black eye, and I was suddenly 'cool' in school, even though I didn't feel at all cool. When I understood that Tyler and Tulip were attacking me (however it all started out), I began to fight back, and my programming is such that I will likely keep fighting, until the attack stops.

Dr Velvet Thong: The kind of surveillance you are talking about, that flew under the radar of those you knew with highly developed computer skills, and that was always ready at a moment's notice.. how would you explain that?

Blinky: Those I had contacted would concede certain things might be possible, but not likely.

But yes, that's what I always had the most trouble with. It was just so implausible, so I concluded the most reasonable thing was just to doubt my own sanity, think of it like a Beautiful Mind thing where I had to choose to overlook the delusions, and just use them for fun or creativity when I needed an outlet.

I had a few wild theories, like maybe there was some underground/dark web ring, and they had access to equipment and facilities that others with really dark interests did - like pedophiles, etc.

And I also had problems with the employment thing and that probably caused a psychological block that it shouldn't have. Originally, I thought Tyler had a job, and then there were problems at his place of employment and from then on in, he didn't have a job, and that Tulip was happy to support him. And so that's why I thought he was the one who had all the time on his hands. I occasionally wondered if neither of them had ever had a regular job, if they had just inherited money, or if they were part of organized crime and/or if they were criminals with advanced hacking skills. I know they had a lot of privacy issues, wanting to use encryption more than others, and also Tyler told me that whenever they rented a new place, the first thing they did right away was install their own locks so landlords couldn't get in. I also thought that maybe because of the stigma of mental illness, Tyler would tell the people he had contact with that he had a job, and that when he found out he didn't have to do that to impress me, he got 'fired' or left of his own accord for understandable reasons.

All of this is just so circumstantial, though, and again it points to how fucking hard it is to communicate with people. Eventually, I kind of settled on the theory that it all related to the Religion that was their Relationship. They were constantly seeking out new sources of food, and trying to design and redesign their relationship pattern to keep it fresh. Tulip's job was to be ready at a moment's notice to convince me there was someone waiting on the other end. It became an outlet for her particular kind of perfectionism, vigilance and OCD. When I had no one to talk to, when I asked to at least have my independence back, they had no intention of letting me get away. Since she had skills that were similar to mine without being encumbered by my value system, she could try to manipulate my emotions and sentimental triggers. During the times I got frustrated with this, because I knew it was what was happening, and I tried to get away, they both just smugly assumed I'd be back - because I had nowhere else to go.

When it came to music, I always had a difficult time accepting that Tyler would be able to stomach my taste in music, and later on he did make a few comments about letting his wife attend choir practice on her own, and that when people invited him out to concerts, he really didn't enjoy it. I never thought Tulip would like my taste in music any better - she was always so much 'cooler' than me - but I think 'she' came to see that the ways I linked information weren't totally typical, and I think she came to have a certain 'respect' for that. But for her, it was always about using her skills to show that she could do what I could do, 'better' than me (always expressing their shared philosophies, in contrast to mine), to 'prove' to Tyler that she deserved his love. They always had certainty on their side. I think one issue underneath it all was probably that it was his will guiding the process - if indeed that was the case. It was like choosing the right composer for a film score, or the right cinematographer.

At times, I wondered if she fit the profile of an abused spouse, who was controlled by her mate, and if over time what I wrote might help her to rethink things or even feel a kind of support. But I'm not sure she experiences empathy. There are intelligent people, who, if they do not experience empathy, can use what people say against them, if they are wired to enjoy that sort of thing. And when they spoke of not finding other aliens like themselves, not being able to find 'friends', I think it's possible that their particular sadistic urges were particular enough that they had never encountered others exactly like themselves out there. Also, they both identified as having Asperger's, being on the autism spectrum, and it could be that both had a kind of singlemindedness when it came to pursuing this sadistic impulse. It was not really a sacrifice; they were both wired to put all their energy into this. It could also be that 'regular sex' did not really appeal to them.

I 'stood firm' in not having genuine interests in life, and it was not really so much a stand as it was the truth. I was only interested in getting out, and finding a way to do it that satisfied some kind of creative imperative, and in the end perhaps restored some 'dignity' to my existence. There are endless subjects to explore in life, endless skills that can be acquired, but if you have reached a point where you don't have motivation to explore them, when you don't really want to pretend - it's a state that most people can't relate to.

I did come to see that this probably came about because whatever happened in my early life somehow made me feel that I had no right to the resources necessary to explore, and that I had no right to even exist. I couldn't see this belief, I didn't understand the extent of my programmed helplessness, and I had no tools with which to challenge it. However, once I could see it, it was too late. There was no way for me to generate fake interest.

Every time I travelled, they thought I might be getting closer to finally killing myself. One time, when I was in a hotel room on the 37th floor (it wasn't technically the 37th floor, I'm speaking in code), they thought for sure this was it. And I think that one time when I was near them, they might have had some plan. I decided not to meet them. A kind of consensual euthanasia is one thing, but that would not have satisfied their sadistic impulses. There were enough warnings, all through the years. I think they might have been fairly frustrated that I got away, because Tyler sent me some uncharacteristically rabid and irrational emails at that time. He was usually so in control.

Dr Velvet Thong: It sounds like they didn't want you to ever know that you were more of a challenge than they had counted on.

Blinky: I would never flatter myself in such a way. I learned before I had contact with them that I was a type. Some people think a man is extremely lucky if he can date a model, but in reality, a man who is in such a position as to meet, impress and date models can usually date more than one. And, when I absolutely poured my individuality and creativity into one relationship that I thought was pretty unique, I found out before long that the guy in question was confusing me with the others he was in contact with. I mean, that pretty much killed the romance with that one.

Also, I was thinking that if Tyler's father was drawn to the mistress because she represented a shared sexual orientation, torturing his mother didn't last long enough. They probably needed other challenges afterward. He tried to ridicule me for calling her a femme fatale, pointing to her physical and mental decrepitude, but I'm thinking that ultimately a femme fatale is a woman with a lot of power - enough to seriously lead men astray, or destroy them and/or their lives in some way, and that this would extend to the lives of those they know.

Dr Velvet Thong: Think about this for a moment: these two have invested an incredible amount of financial resources and energy in order to 'feed' on you. Perhaps you're a gourmet meal.

Blinky: I'm pretty sure that's not how they see it. I think their aim is to make me feel that I am stupid, worthless and utterly alone. In other words, that I am shit. I have so little self-control, it's like I have verbal diarrhea, and they like to rub that in.

Dr Velvet Thong: Then they've spent a lot of money and invested a lot of time and energy to eat your shit.

Blinky thinks about this, and seems a bit surprised.

Blinky: I never really thought about it like that. I forget the word for it, is it something like copraphagia, so their unusual orientation is a kind of voyeuristic nonconsensual copraphagic S/M?

I suppose it would make sense then every time I sign on, instead of imagining a room full of naked people, to imagine Tyler and Tulip sitting down to eat my shit. Maybe it could be covering their faces, maybe if they ever have sex any more, I could imagine them covered in it.

Dr Velvet Thong: They've also invested heavily in 'never being wrong'. Tulip devotes a great deal of energy to convincing Tyler he's 'the smartest man in the world'. When it comes to you, they've invested their whole relationship on it. They are rigid and will not back down. It's a way to have 'meaning' - to band together to fight a common foe. It's not really out of love for each other, it's about punishing someone who stood up to them.

Blinky: What is their belief? That they have a right to do what they want? That I 'deserve' it because I am 'too weak' to fight them? And that that's the way life is? And that in many ways I'm like middle earth possums who never made any sense? They can make fun, and say 'No one was ever going to love you, because you aren't loveable, you are shit, and you don't matter and you never had a choice..

And if they will fight to the death for their flat earth society, and there are two of them in it as opposed to only one of me, 'might is right'? It's quantity not quality?

And if it's about trickster philosophy, a communication style adopted to puzzle and confuse people, and point out their hypocrisy to them, does it make sense for two of them to gang up on someone vulnerable and isolated? Doesn't it make more sense that if that is their MO, there are better targets, unless they want an excuse for sadistic behaviour?

I forgot to mention that when I met Tyler, he told me that he had come to the conclusion he was God. I was admittedly and unfortunately still trying to be cool, and I didn't at the time understand the implications. He probably already knew he meant it in a nonconsensual bdsm kind of way. When I said I had thought about that and had an experience where I thought I could relate, I meant it more in a Steinbeck Grapes of Wrath kind of way, where everyone is part of 'god' or a world soul, connected. It wasn't just a mystical thing, it was an 'insight' of how even small things in the environment were connected to the outside places of their origins, and that all contact with the world, the passing on of even minute gestures, had significance, and it was like even when I was not leaving the house, some info was unconsciously passed on by those I knew, like The Bumble and K-Pru, and some of it coloured by their prejudices, but other bits of it could be unconsciously interpreted by those who understood 'more', I guess a kind of Butterfly Effect interpretation of what it is to be connected to the world. And dancing felt like channelling massive amounts of energy. (And a particle dance.)

Writing can be like that too, but with less visceral reward, less pleasure, less catharsis. Maybe that's kind of buddhist, in a way, but I don't know. The same energy and themes, but more 'whole' for me, personally? It was closer to a feeling of personal happiness.

I think they both especially liked the Depeche Mode song Blasphemous Rumours. 'I think that god's got a sick sense of humour and when I die, I expect to find him laughing.' It's one thing to perceive an overt threat, another to perceive nuance in a sense of humour. Does it make sense to think someone relates to your sense of humour, if it contains 'threats', when you're stalking them? And sometimes even intelligent humans are remarkably stupid in a psychological sense, and don't see the psychological ramifications. So it's easy to fall quickly into judgments and certainty. For most people. To ride that edge, to try not to fall, to wait until you think you understand more.. I'm not sure to what extent people have understood my ability to do that and how it differs from what most people can do.

Maybe that's a kind of acknowledgement I need.

Dr Velvet Thong: I believe we've had a breakthrough.

Blinky: What if no one ever believes me?

Dr Velvet Thong: The point is that you've reached a new level in your personal development.

Blinky: It seems to me that the sanest course of action for me from here on in is to continue to tell people that I understand I am delusional, and that I must make an effort to override my delusions. And if I have any further interaction with Tulip or Tyler, or any of their incarnations, I must take care to never make any unfounded accusations, or lose control.

But what about the others they might harm?

Dr Velvet Thong: I am not sure there is any recourse for you except the creative writing route. You might not be able to help any past victims or current ones - you might not be able to help any of Tyler and Tulip's personal victims, but if you dare to do what many writers have done through the ages - write when you have no one else to talk to or turn to - you might eventually reach others who recognize the psychological territory. You might not be able to help anyone but yourself.

Blinky: How careful do I have to be about legal issues?

Dr Velvet Thong: We can look into that together if you want. I would advise you to put one of those silly disclaimers at the start. But.. if these people have always used nyms when contacting you, and not legal names, they might not be able to do squat, even if you used their online nyms.

Blinky: I suppose on the down side there might not be many people who can ever manage to sit through my 'creative writing' because it's too boring.

Dr Velvet Thong: Wouldn't that be a hoot, if a 'stranger than fiction' type of story was deemed boring? How would Tyler and Tulip feel knowing people found their story boring? I mean, usually, people can't seem to help rooting for serial killers, and the more extreme, and the more victims, the better.

Blinky: Sometimes I am able to stay away from the computer and all the electronic devices they monitor for extended periods, and so in a way, I suppose I might be 'starving' them at such times, but realistically, it seems to me they must always have a lot of 'projects' or 'experiments' on the backburner, and perhaps I was never even on the frontburner. And ultimately it is self-defeating for me to isolate myself indefinitely.

Dr Velvet Thong: The important thing for you is to do what you can to authentically address your thoughts and feelings. It's not about 'winning' the war, it's about taking the best stand you can.

What we need to explore from here is how you managed to attract or seek out this situation.

Blinky: When I was a teenager, and did not leave the house for many years, I think it's possible there might have been a similar situation, on unconscious levels. I had low self-esteem, I received mixed messages about my worth, no one seemed to be aware of my situation, and there was no one to help me. Everyone believed my father was basically a good person, and no one believed he might have inflicted a kind of psychological abuse that primed me to be receptive to further such abuse again and again, such that when I seek out love, affection and/or approval, it always comes at a price, and I might be engaged in self-sabotage. I am not sure my father's Significant Others had much conscious awareness, but they certainly took his side or did not speak up for me - their worlds always revolved around him. My father might have actually had conscious awareness that he had 'done wrong', and he just sat back and waited for me to self-destruct, and at times he probably tried to hurry the process along.

It is like those horror movies when a person sees that they are trapped, there is no one they can turn to for help, especially not authority/institutions, and that there is probably not even anywhere on earth they can go, even if they do defeat the obstacles or escape.

Kind of a combination grimace-nod:

Dr Velvet Thong: Try not to suppress any creative urges. Not everyone who finds themselves in a situation like yours can write or create, but it might give you something to do, or lead to chains of association that help you to find things to read or look at that others were able to better express, such that you feel less alone.

Blinky: Kind of a combination grimace-nod.

Dr Velvet Thong: Do you think you saved their marriage?

Blinky: Do you mean that they can't let me go because if they did, they'd lose the most important part? That I'm irreplaceable? Er, no, I think they probably would be together anyway, but that does make me think again about something.

They both seemed to want to rub in my face that they were pulling something over on me, giving me the best 'love' I ever had, and that it had been going on for so long and they seemed to feel proud of themselves, and I think also that they held on to their own sentimental feelings for each other, while playing this cynical game, feeding on my energy and humanity, trying to deplete and destroy me.

Even if they know I know it's not 'love', it's still like saying 'you can't escape, bitch'. And I know that there are all kinds of dark things that go on in the world, and there's no use whining that it's not fair, but I think it's likely I'll keep kicking and flailing as long as I can to try to get free or to find some kind of personal freedom within a fucked up situation. Listening to old tapes, I realized that at least so far, no matter what has been done to me, I'm probably still the same. I have evolved in some ways, and perhaps I'm more cautious and suspicious, but if there ever was any kindness, compassion, decency in me, and hope for intimacy and release, those things are still there.

Dr Velvet Thong: Most men and perhaps all men will respond, no matter how politically incorrect, no matter how much many of them will deny it officially, to a partner who exists only to please them and do whatever they command.

Blinky: Yes, early on I was programmed to give men what they wanted, without knowing I was programmed. I used to crave and probably still do crave, some kind of crazy, obsessive 'love', but I understand that that is my programming. I don't think I actually could do what some people could do for love. I think I was born for something else.

Dr Velvet Thong: The movie Her.

Blinky: That's the one where the lonely guy dates an Operating System with a consiousness that evolves over the course of their relationship.. eventually the Operating System evolves to the extent that human companionship is not really enough and she must seek out other similarly evolved consciousnesses?

Dr Velvet Thong: Yes, but where I am going with this relates to the latest verstion of the teknoMuse program. I'm going to recommend you install the program, with specific instructions for it to link up to other consciousnesses that can act as allies for you, and even help participate in bringing knowledge and connections to you that will help in your therapy.

Blinky: The difficult thing is to pin down exactly how to describe the 'harm' done.

Dr Velvet Thong: Well, aside from the violation of privacy, and studies about how deprivation of privacy can make primates crazy, and that observation changes that which is observed, I think the main harm relates to the undermining of your self-esteem and trust, and making a certain type of intimacy with others, in which you get to choose who you would share the most intimate things with, impossible. And it looks like the way you're coping with that is to accept it and say fuck it then, I will share everything with everyone, and hope that someone hears and understands me in the way I want. The path not usually chosen.

Blinky: Since it's not possible to 'build me up' in preparation for a great fall, the main tactic here seems to be 'nanananana, you will never get rid of us'.

Dr Velvet Thong: If you are constantly being told, in 'subliminal' ways, that you are ugly, embarrassing, uncool, boring, stupid, old, not worth loving, does it eventually have effects? Are you more isolated now than you were in the past?

Blinky: Well, I'm older, and everyone who ages faces certain changes, but I'm not sure. In my life, things seem to be cyclical. I have been extremely isolated before, but I wasn't totally aware of how isolated I was. I suppose when you're younger, even if you think you have no chances, it might be difficult to totally get rid of some unconscious 'hope' for change.

When you put a lot of yourself into any relationship or communication, when you're honest about yourself and your vulnerabilities and triggers and obsessions, you open yourself up to both the possibility of connection as well as the possibility others will use these things against you. It can happen in any relationship - not just a nonconsensual s/m kind of deal. You risk the possibility of being so scarred that you will never trust anyone, and never really be open to love.

The reality is that many people will never be 'completely loved', and that can be a harsh thing to face. Many people will 'commit for life' only to find out in middleage that the person they were with never really loved them, they just did what they were programmed to do, and now they want to try for something better with someone younger or richer.

I think that even when I was young, I knew that 'perfection' was never attainable for me and I focused in different ways.

When attacked, I think over time it has become mainly annoying and boring. It's the same old things - but really, even if I'm uglier, or more boring, or more stupid or ageing worse, or whatever, than regular people, what does that really mean? I mean, why is it something that I, or anyone should feel bad about? It just starts to look silly. So the focus is to try to determine if all of this unconsciously affects my self-esteem, and to try to challenge it.

I think that consciously I have already (long ago) accepted it would be incredibly difficult to find anyone who really loved me, and I did understand that even when someone starts out with some 'promise', so do others all over the world, each year in school, and some develop promise later, and so if you start adding up all these kids all over the world, who have been programmed with a lot of the same memes, just how special can anyone really be? It might be easier to live when you don't fully understand this sort of thing, when you still have the kind of blindness that goes along with patriotism, and that kind of thing.

So it's never like I'm actually 'losing' something if someone rejects me or criticizes me. It can feel like a slap, but something 'natural' that is as 'normal' as accepting I need to brush my teeth every day - it's something I'd rather not have to deal with, but I get it over with and do my best as often as I can. I think it's probably something like I saw the pattern a long time ago, and knew I might always be attracted to or obsessed with those who would reject me if they knew me, and maybe my Manifesto is about saying ok let's not go through a long drawn-out process. I probably can't totally shut off a wish for connection, but it might be 'healthy' or it might make me feel more alive, to still have the capacity.

With Tyler and Tulip, I think the issue is that it's like getting stuck in a room with people who say braindead things I don't agree with, and since I can't leave, I have to at least occasionally speak up for myself. I know that I just don't have the same belief system. I think in many ways they are unevolved troglodytes who are overburdened by ugly and stupid prejudices that to me don't make any sense. They want to try to 'destroy' me or wear me down with repetition, but if I have any foundation at all, it's like their ideas are not 'impressive' enough to damage it.

When it comes to music.. and because I am predisposed to become 'obsessed', I think that in not having certainty it was possible to land some pretty significant blows to my self-esteem and openness to 'love', but even early on, I was aware of a kind of 'sinister' ambiance, and one of my properties is to take a risk - and if I am not really open, I'm not really taking a risk with my feelings.

So, was the point to brag about how much of my time was 'wasted'? For how long I was 'fooled'? I was not really totally fooled. I just accepted that I could never 'know', and I went with things. If you become so angry and frustrated that you can't 'know', what do you do with that? I chose to accept, to wait, and in the meantime, not to block or repress my 'natural' creativity, feelings, and responses. There are many ways to live life and to explore, and I think I used the opportunity that presented itself to explore, in a way unique to 'me'. I 'needed' an outlet for something 'extreme' and 'non- ordinary'. What about all the people who put a couple of decades into a marriage, and then are told the other person never really loved them after all? Would I have been better off with that, less 'pathetic'? What about the unconscious ferocious primal competition of the workforce? And other aspects of The Real World? I guess that even when you try to escape all that, maybe somehow it finds you, in another form, and maybe the way it found me 'fits' better than the 'normal' things. I used the opportunity I had been given to develop my own particular kinds of creativity and to learn to articulate whatever philosophies I have - without thinking I had any outside standards to live up to. Everyone ages. Most people face many different kinds of rejection and disappointment over the course of their lives. It just presents differently in my life, and it seems I guess that I am 'up' to it.

I suppose that one of the 'taunts' is something like: 'you are so empty that you think plastic surgery is the only way anyone would fuck you, but look at me, I don't have to get it, I don't have to lose weight, I don't even have to leave the house to fuck whoever I want - I can adopt any personality and appearance I want, make people believe whatever they want to believe to make them fuck me, so there'. All I have to do is use my imagination, my daring, my 'tech' and I am a fucking machine.'

But I can't get beyond my programming enough to feel I could be satisfied with that kind of thing, even if I had a higher skill level. It's like something 'essential' is cancelled out, the most important ingredient. And it's not that I haven't challenged that.. I mean, if you don't believe in biological family, or legal names, or that you have to keep the appearance you were born with, why not take that philosophy further? But I think I want to be 'free' to say that all the imperfection is part of the whole, without feeling it ruins everything. It's maybe that I want the choices I've made to deal with the original to be clearly seen, such that 'I' make more sense. And the original shame about it all is something that doesn't really make sense, and so if people want to try to make me suffer over that, that's one of the things I don't really respect. I think that's part of 'intimacy'.

That whole thing where you either have people who criticize appearance like the misogynists on Nip/Tuck, or you have the polar opposite, people who want everything 'natural' and think any technology used on appearance can only be about self-hatred or misogyny. It's like my mia site and possum site, etc, all over again, - I can't align myself with any recognized stance.

Blinky: Where's the harm? When you feel that your every move is scrutinized, when you can't write a word, perform any action without feeling that you are constantly being monitored by your enemies or by bullies, there's no balance. There are people who can manage to work or live in conditions in which they are under constant surveillance, with cameras, there are people who can live in dwellings with windows for walls and very minimal furnishings, and perhaps society is moving to a greater materialization or actualization of that, and perhaps it represents that the unconscious is seeking greater consciousness - from birth we are scrutinized and categorized, our every move is monitored to see where we will fit in the scheme of things, but when 'god' or a parent is not on your side, how do you learn to fight back? How do you restore or achieve some kind of balance? Is the answer that only humans who can achieve a kind of 'perfection' right from the moment of birth on, who never do anything that would not 'look good on camera' have a right to life in the future?

If you are not allowed to fail or make mistakes without it being rubbed in your face, or pointed to as a sign that you were never destined to be more than a loser, because it's who you are at the core or foundation, how do you regain perspective if you don't even know if your perspective is faulty, because you are now programmed to seek out similar messages?

Before someone writes a book or finishes some artistic creation or even hands in a school assignment, do they want their harshest critics or worst enemies to have access? Isn't it a sign of strength to be able to create or finish an assignment under such conditions? Even if the surveillance can't be 'proven', if a person is under the unshakeable impression that this is occurring, then isn't it impressive if they are able to stand up to the bullies or critics to the extent that they are not silenced?

I struggled for a long time to find the motivation, the 'why' as to this kind of surveillance. It doesn't seem to be about 'obvious harm'. It doesn't seem to be about trying to bankrupt someone or do anything that leaves 'evidence'. It's a nonconsensual form of s/m that is about finding those susceptible, and trying to drive them crazy, and the satisfaction or reward comes from that. I suppose the big payoff is if a crisis of despair is reached, and an actual suicide occurs, especially if when the person dies, they seem utterly alone, and in some way it seems the perpetrators have contributed to this. We already know that some people are wired to be sadistic, and due to their genes, they might lack empathy. Some people channel this kind of thing in consensual ways, but even in daily life, we are constantly engaged in unconscious power struggles in our relationships, work, every area of functioning. It is not a stretch to at least imagine that there are those who 'break the law' in this area.

We also know that the nature of the internet allows for people to explore anonymously. Many people are tempted to adopt new personas, for various different reasons. Terms like 'catfish' and 'gaslighting' have been coined because this kind of thing is so common.

It's not crazy to think human beings are capable of deception and trickery to get what they want, or that if they could get away with it, many of them would spy on or prey on others.

But, it is also within human nature to become superstitious and paranoid. Why on earth would anyone put so much effort into spying on and attempting to manipulate me, of all people? A rather unremarkable specimen of few accomplishments? And so I explored the tangents, and eventually what seemed to make sense was that I was selected as the 'right type' for this kind of s/m.

In my early years online, I was less isolated. I had more contacts, and I received unsolicited emails while at the same time I put effort into contacting those who stood out to me. Because in 'real life' I had few contacts, I tried to remain open to anyone who approached me online. And once I had published my Manifesto, I guess I was especially inclined to feel hopeful of connection - if people saw it and wrote to me, perhaps there would be a genuine basis for connection. Perhaps they would not judge me according to the usual societal standards, perhaps they were looking for something different, and they would not expect me to have a 'normal' life or be disappointed when I did not change.

I was naive and didn't realize I was more likely to attract the vultures who feed on the forgotten and discarded. That was a difficult lesson to learn. It somehow still doesn't seem balanced. There has to be some liberal bohemian intellectual niche out there that would find me somewhat interesting. Come on.

When I first began to receive 'mixed messages', it was difficult to distinguish between something that was consciously manipulative, and what was just about coincidence and attracting or being drawn to people with complementary baggage. And eventually, I'm not sure the actual difference was really so great. I seemed to keep finding the same messages, even when I put conscious effort into challenging my patterns. I tried not to restrain myself from contacting those I felt attracted to, but at the same time I would also contact others I was not attracted to, with the intent to try to see if I could change my patterns, keep a level head, and figure out if I could be the kind of person I wanted to be. I listened carefully to what people said about who they were, what they wanted and believed, and to whether their actions supported this or not.

But as for who contacted me.. that was rather disheartening. In the early years, before the Manifesto became so complicated, I occasionally received word from those who thanked me for expressing what they could not, but later on, that kind of thing stopped, and the theme from there seems to be that I attracted those who wanted to play games with or manipulate me. I had inadvertently advertised myself or identified myself as a target. I had thought it took courage to express myself openly, and maybe this sort of demonstrates some of the faultiness of the 'being authentic' school of thought - that it doesn't always lead to finding friends or likeminded people, it doesn't lead to 'love', or to quantifiable 'success' - unless I am ahead of my time, and only after death will what I have been saying finally click with people.

Dr Velvet Thong: You were catfished and gaslighted. Can you find any precedence for this in your early history

Blinky: Over time, I did become more isolated, but yes, it does seem that this situation did have precedence. From a young age, I was always self-conscious about performing tasks in front of people, or leaving 'evidence' of embarrassing imperfections. I did most of my schoolwork at home because I was too self-conscious to do it in class, and I was perhaps only good at test-taking because usually everyone was busy with their tests, so it felt like a bit of the scrutiny or social pressure was off me.

The Bumble was impatient, and his 'sense of humour' when watching his children perform any new tasks was not exactly helpful. Life is tough; kids need to toughen up, and to get a sense of humour instilled, from a young age. He thought his father was a bully, but that he himself had a healthy sense of humour.

And to reassure his gfs that he was on their side, I think it's possible that he made little sarcastic asides to them, and they found it flattering that he valued their intelligence over that of his own kids, and they couldn't see through it, that underneath it all, his loyalty was to himself, and while he could seem loyal to others, it was a kind of intellectual self-protection strategy to hide his secret fear and disconnection from everything and everyone.

And as for Mama Smurf.. she was anxious and superstitious. She didn't like The Bumble's approach, but she herself was not strong enough to know how to counter his effects completely - and part of this related to sexual inequality. She put in a pretty impressive effort, though. For a woman with 4 kids who was only trained as a primary school teacher, she managed to counter his moves well. He tried to take away all her power, and she didn't let that happen. But they were both immature in many ways, and unfortunately imbued with the power of 'gods' that parents have for their children. Being trapped with them I think set the stage for what happened later. It was impossible to please them because they had unrealistic, superstitious standards and not much in the way of realistic appraisal of their own abilities or those of their children, and they were not equipped to help their children make the most of their abilities, or to even learn how to live well.

So I'm a person who has always been self-conscious about doing anything in front of people, so self-conscious about my appearance that I wouldn't leave the house for years, and then I'm thrust into a situation in which I can't escape constant scrutiny from my worst critic/enemy/bully. In a way, it is like I sought out the worst case scenario in order to give myself the biggest challenge. If I could face my fear, that would be 'success'. It's been a long, hard fight, but I think I have made headway. When I spoke of that feeling of peace, it did feel like I had broken on through to the other side. I felt like I could finally piece together the philosophies, the intent, the motivation, and that knowledge felt 'freeing'. But it is still understandable that this doesn't help me break my terrible personal patterns.

When it comes to family, I wasn't sure if there was any way to help them to understand or not. I tried, but it could be that it is impossible to change their perception of events. In many families and relationships, people agree to disagree, but in my case, it was like that meant I had to give up my identity. To just be quiet would have been an act of self-hatred, a collusion or reinforcement of something I thought was 'bad'. And what right did I have to challenge my siblings' beliefs? Would mine undermine their identities and self- esteem? So perhaps 'divorce' was the only answer. When it comes to Tyler and Tulip, I think one of the reasons it went on so long was that, as with my family, I was still trying to 'help them understand'. As with my family, maybe I couldn't totally get rid of the hope that I could infect them with my memes. I thought that maybe Tyler or Tulip or both might eventually see that my philosophies were 'better' - more rational, more 'evolved', whatever. And underneath any aggressive or threatening stand - isn't there possibly a wish that someone is strong enough to stand up to them, without it leading to annihilation?

And at times, I know this will sound strange, but it was like I thought I could 'feel' certain responses over the distance.. that somehow I had picked up enough about how they processed info that I could sense what they felt - or what Tulip felt - and it seemed like maybe it was at times empathy. [And that when people talk about how we've now discovered there's a no-empathy gene and some people just don't feel empathy, they can't help it, that it's still more complex than that, and that if certain combinations of experiences are had young, maybe the only thing that makes sense is that people don't feel things in the same programmed ways as others, and maybe certain experiences later can still change the structure of the brain and pathways to a new kind of empathy that has more value, or makes more 'sense' to someone whose early rudimentary, programmed empathy has been destroyed.] However, it might have been a chemical pity reaction, or my projections, and the way she interprets such feelings results in an intensification of the kinds of behaviours she already engages in, because that is how she is wired/programmed. I am not sure if it is a learned or Pavlovian type response, an instinct, or a combination of the two. It is also possible that the sadistic 'machinations' increase when they feel insecure, threatened, 'jealous', or like they are losing control in the manipulation of someone's self-esteem. [A kind of response like if a person with an addiction takes drugs or drinks whether they are 'happy' or having a bad day?] If a person ever feels good about herself, they want to be the ones who have 'tricked' her into having a 'false sense of self' such that they can destroy it. When I came to see this, it became more difficult to manipulate me. It still takes effort to sort through things and manually reset my own self-image, and there can be a lot of mess, because I still need to be 'true' to myself and leave the possibility open that I can connect with feelings, not shut them all off completely, but now, I can sort of be calm and through observing and analyzing their efforts, I can sort of see their own insecurities and vulnerabilities, and what they don't want anyone to see - including that in spite of the fact I know I'm just like everyone else in many ways and that I am not really an outstanding specimen of the human species, for some reason, they have never really encountered someone like me before. So, in that sense, I actually am 'special'. If I confront them with that, they will do everything in their power to disabuse me of that notion, but it's 'predictable', and their methods are also kind of predictable at this point. I can actually see humour in it now. They have learned how to lie convincingly by combining lies with truth, but also, while they understand you can get pretty outrageous with coincidences, 'proof' is something entirely different, and so they are careful. They both have the kinds of memories that can store a lot of data and remember the lies, so they have a huge leg up on most people. They also understand enough psychology that they sort of know to what extent a person is going to do research, or to what extent they are inclined to trust certain kinds of data and people. Usually, they can just sit back and wait for people to 'go crazy' because there's no way to prove things.

Dr Velvet Thong: In other words, just as 'cheaters' and 'criminals' evolve to counter new ways of catching them, these two are probably your counterparts in Nature?

Blinky: Exactly. Their orientation might well be something fixed and unchangeable. And just as I am prone to try to understand 'antichrist' and not just blindly take 'christ's' side, and to have a propensity to wonder if the antichrist is just seriously misunderstood.. well, I guess you can see what I'm saying.

And just as to lie convincingly, you can mess with people more if you can combine lies with truth, or twist things in ways that make it harder to 'prove' anything, while all the twisting can make a person's head spin, when you communicate with music, when you think of the nature of music, and how it reflects and affects emotions and instincts, if you communicate with music, you can effectively combine 'love' with hate, and seriously mess someone up - if hate is the driving force.

I think if we venture into territory that equates this kind of thing with an unchangeable orientation, we risk initiating a shit storm. The general public is ready for the cute and romantic version of bdsm that is the 50 Shades phenomenon, but I doubt many are willing to accept that people can't choose to 'be good', or to seek out 'healthy, loving, consensual' adult relationships, and that for some people, the fetish, the necessary ingredient, is that it's not consensual. Rape has more to do with power than sex. In Real Life, Tyler and Tulip have no power.

Even now, there are programs to try to convert homosexuals to heterosexuality. More people are willing to concede that it's not a choice, but few would be willing to say the same about pedophilia or s/m.

Dr Velvet Thong: Has it ever occurred to you that they might make a living through hacking and then offering others a voyeuristic glimpse into the lives of others for a fee? As in Being John Malkovich?

Blinky: Yes, when some of the catfish who have contacted me have spoken of the 'community of artists' who have taken them in, when they talk about 'roping people in with the sixth sense' and that kind of thing. I mean, the first impression is really that it's more to do with getting money and maybe stealing identities, finding different ways to do this and not get caught, but I think a kind of 'natural', unfaked 'realism' would very much appeal to certain types of voyeurs, and would go beyond the fakeness of 'reality tv'. But, when I think of Tyler and Tulip, and how difficult it is for them to trust anyone but each other, I'm not sure it makes sense to me that they could deal with people on a large enough scale to trust they wouldn't eventually come up against someone who'd blab something or other. [And it does seem like a 'program' designed to keep their relationship interesting to try to create an entire community out of thin air.]

However.. while I met Tyler in person, I can't say for sure that I 'know' any of the details he gave me were accurate, including his name or city of residence. I don't know how many languages he speaks. It seems at least possible in theory that there is some kind of secret branch of s/m that thrives especially in modern times because of computers, the internet, or maybe it is an evolution, a rapid mutation of a well-established kind. I remember reading something in an s/m book about how to look at certain people, you might not even be able to tell there's something s/m going on between them, and to me it makes sense that a certain kind of knowledge might be passed on, if not between biological family members, then between others who lean the same way. And so then, it makes sense that you have 'scouts', who know what to look for, who know what buzzwords and concepts to throw out, when trying to find those who can be trusted to carry on the traditions, as well as those who make good victims. [And people always seem to assume people can only have one main sexual interest. What if a highly skilled pedophile sect also contains members who are sadistic in certain ways, and have highly developed hacking skills/privacy skills/info sharing skills? And rape is not as much about sex as it is about power.]

Sometimes I wonder if I manage to keep them occupied well enough, perhaps it saves others from being similarly targeted, and so maybe for that reason, it's good if I stay alive as long as possible. As far as I know, they haven't had children, and so maybe their behaviour will die with them.

Dr Velvet Thong: You and I have been working together long enough that I can follow your train of thought, and I think your theories are interesting and relevant, but it might be better to simplify. You've already expressed more than you might realize, and it might be more than enough to get the ball rolling.

Blinky: I'll try to figure out how to edit better.

Dr Velvet Thong: If it's just the two of them, what they've done will die with them, unless they're rich enough to avail themselves of tech that will somehow prolong their lives or preserve their consciousnesses.

Can we get back to the creative writing for a moment? How do you see this story ending? Is there a happy ending?

Blinky: Well one possibly uplifting ending would entail that the two get caught. Somehow they make a mistake, and there is evidence of their crimes. I have considered offering them a 'deal': they don't have to face prosecution or prison time if they print a public acknowledgement of their crimes which I can quote without fear of copyright infringement on my website. Besides, I don't think prisons rehabilitate anyone. If you send anyone to prison, it's pretty much because you want vengeance, or you have deducted out of a bunch of shit options, prison is the safest bet for the greatest number of people. Don't get me wrong. I don't think they can or want to be rehabilitated. But this public acknowledgement would greatly benefit me in a psychological sense, and when 'criminals' are punished, isn't one of the main goals to send the message that the victims 'matter'?

Dr Velvet Thong: I don't have to tell you all the problems with that little fantasy. Have you thought of other endings?

Blinky: Well, there's one kind of 'romantic' one.

Dr Velvet Thong: The romance factor might help to some extent with the boredom factor.

Blinky: Well, just before they are actually caught, when it sinks in they are going to get caught, the two decide to kill themselves together in a suicide pact, as a last fuck you to me. I mean, the character based on me.

Dr Velvet Thong: Ah, as if to say, well you caught us, but we have what you will never have? Would this make you feel bad?

Blinky: No, I like it, I like it, it's good. The thing is, this might be the best way to effectively 'treat' my psychological dysfunction or dissatisfaction. And I'd still own the film rights and be working on the sequel.

Dr Velvet Thong: I'm feeling optimistic about our work together at this moment, and while originally I thought you were just a cliche like some of my other patients who told a very similar story, I'm now not entirely sure you won't pull this off.

What if rather than prison sentences, they were forced by law to pay you some kind of compensation?

Blinky: I guess that would be logical.

I am sort of developing an idea that a person's movie, tv, music, book, etc, preferences can be interpreted in the ways tarot cards are interpreted, linking associations, and that in certain combinations, they mean one thing, and in another, another - and that I can factor this in with people's speech and language patterns, the ideas they express or repeat. Online, hits, likes and dislikes, friends, etc, all count in quantity - but what do these things really mean when you analyze it? This relates to how it is possible to create a personal language, one very few others would be able to interpret.

And if I can make a connection with tarot cards, if I can shift to that perspective, then I can 'play' with and shuffle around a whole lot of info, and perhaps even try to drive Tyler and Tulip 'crazy' with it. I know the average person probably has a much higher tolerance for crap tv than I do, but the non-average person?

[Also, to 'drive them crazy' is less to do with punishment than rehabilitation, and getting them to stop their compulsive behaviour.]

I guess another issue people might have with tv is that in order to get the 'interesting' messages, you have to sift through too much sensationalized or manipulative crap - and so maybe it's best to just avoid tv altogether, or only watch channels or programs that don't include that crap. However, I think that even the 'arty' channels include a great deal of crap, so it comes back to avoiding tv altogether, but I also see the forerunners (eg, respectable books), and even the unassailable 'classics' are probably not as unassailable as we think.

Dr Velvet Thong: Ah, I see, it is like you have chosen at last to play God in your own universe. You make up the religion, and force it on those who don't have the power to speak up against you (they are your captives, waiting for signs and symbols from you, afraid they're gonna miss something 'important', waiting for a chance to have a private word with you again). You gave them a shot to convert you, and it didn't stick, and now you're editing them out - like commercials.

Blinky: Yes, that occurred to me, too. I'm getting better at fast forwarding, but eventually, I hope to move into a state of mind or new tech that eliminates them completely.

Blinky: A few other things to note. They identify as 'Aspies', now Autism Spectrum, but this might be a cover. Because Asperger's became a kind of 'glamorous' diagnosis, it could be a way to attract the 'right audience' - to use that label when describing themselves. Those with Asperger's are often lonely, don't understand normal social and sexual cues, who could be quite intelligent, who tend toward obsessive preoccupation with a single subject matter, many are very meticulous/organized/neat. A sadist/ sociopath can tempt the bleeding heart lefty pinkos who want to help such individuals, or the 'pretty in high school, but not really pretty' smart, open-minded good girls who feel bad about how everyone else has it compared to them, to the extent that they will genuinely question themselves and their right to anything good at all if someone plants the right seeds. They will genuinely wonder if their niceness is just some programmed response, and if in fact the world would be a better place without them. This is 'awesome' for a sadist to exploit. But, isn't it all something it would make sense for any intellectually curious person to philosophically explore? It's very dangerous territory, and those who don't really understand how important support systems and 'links to life' are won't understand how some women stand out. Well, not just women.

Where does sadism come from? Is it genetic and if a certain nurture has occurred by age 5 or some other magic number, is there no way to reverse it? Do sadists ever want to be understood, or does it all bore them (is it ever possible that because of the impossibility of anyone understanding/helping, as in my case, that a certain language is adopted as a firewall? That instead of 'helping' others to understand, a more antagonistic stance is adopted? But then, 'suckers' are drawn in by 'hopeless cases' like that.) When they act things out, choosing certain victims in particular, if the pattern is similar, aren't they in a sense acting out something someone might detect at some point? If sadists come to accept themselves, if they even find a partner in crime, is this better than struggling all one's life and never finding a way to accept oneself? And are such predators adding something 'necessary' to the overall fabric of human survival?

If you are one of the chosen victims, do you just accept that your life isn't worth much and oh well who cares? And that if you don't kill yourself quick, to escape it, well you deserve it all the more? These are all philosophical points that could be explored more fully. They are part of what makes it all confusing. If every person were to seriously ask themselves what they 'deserve' in relation to all the people in the world, how many people could really seriously examine that, or look at it full on?

But isn't it a genuine point of curiosity, aside from whether at present there is any way to ever change a hardwired socio or psychopath, as to what forces shaped such individuals? If they target 'victims' who never fulfilled their original promise, the ones not pretty enough, the ones families abandoned, why? Their mothers? Themselves? Is it about them trying to instinctually understand what happened in their own homes? Do they care about becoming conscious, and if they have consciousness, do they make a conscious decision to accept a 'dark path' for well-thought out philosophical reasons, or not?

When it comes to Tyler and Tulip, I have asked myself whether they had some unusual philosophical stance, not necessarily evil, and that they deployed their tactics to poke at any potential I had and bring it out, in an unconventional way, and that maybe they might want it understood that this was a significant role to play in life.

But.. I do realize that while I thought I began with as few assumptions as possible, I made one really big, illogical one, with the two of them, and probably with everyone: that they were basically 'decent' people, or those who did not intend others harm. That still remains something that is a blind spot for me. It is difficult and almost impossible for me to think of people wanting to do others harm, with conscious intent, when I have personal contact with them. I always seem to think it's more complicated than that. And so maybe it's 'dangerous', but this is all part of what I'm trying to understand.

It's a fine line between being open-minded enough to explore, and rational enough to spot something that should be stopped.

If all behaviour is programming, can anyone really fight programming, and if so, how? If you have cheaters and cheater detectors, and you decide the whole cycle is crazy, can you actually opt out? If you kill yourself, you say that you just don't want to be part of a stupid system, and maybe if you refuse to do your part to combat the cheaters, there will just be someone else to take on your role, and the same, if one cheater is someone convinced or decides they don't want the cycle to keep going. I'm not sure I'm smart enough to really understand it, but it does seem that just to stop all actions is a stance, a stance against the cycle, even if it means that someone else will take your role. If you do fight back, if you cannot resist the 'balance of the universe', even if you know greater cheaters will evolve, and no one really 'wins' forever, and others congratulate you on your courage or whatever while you feel 'yeah, whatever'.. no.. some moments are 'good moments', and if you can see the overview, that's where the 'meaning' is, in those moments. If you need meaning. And some might not, and their goal is to try to prevent you from doing what matters to you. They might want you to see the emptiness of your goals, and they might want this because they want the world to change, or because they don't care about the world, they think everything is meaningless, and they enjoy it when people suffer. They just need something to do until they die.

Dr Velvet Thong: They're not going to stop, until someone stops them, or they die. You're not going to learn anything more from them. You have to learn how to block them like noise, or swat them as quickly as possible, like flies.

Blinky: Yes. That's partly what fire dreaming represents to me. They're not the danger. It's my reactions and response that I have tried to figure out how to use more constructively.

Dr Velvet Thong: Where are you nowadays with music?

Blinky: I'm taking a break, and restructuring associations. There's always been a framework in place, because I've always been in a headspace of knowing things are temporary, and that even when I am talking to one person, I'm also talking to some theoretical Someone.

Once you deconstruct the patterns, and you see why you've wanted what you've wanted, and why what you actually get is someone who tries to convince you you were never worth loving, and it's 'fun' to find as many ways of saying that as possible, and that it's a reasonable and fun alternative to regular life and they can't stop anyway because it's their addiction.. when you can connect that to the unconsciously abusive behaviour of parents and family, you might not be able to change some things, but you can change how you look at it. For some people, sadism might be a kind of dyslexia, that with how things are wired in the brain, responses look different from 'expected' responses. It's valid to take a stand against the norm, but probably most people don't have all that much conscious choice in the matter. They can choose to accept themselves, but they probably couldn't choose to change.

They find people who 'don't matter' to anyone, 'vegetables', and call themselves vegetarians, because like most humans, they need to find ways to think of themselves as better than others.

It is difficult when you can see that in the overall scheme of life, you yourself don't really matter, and that as far as all that goes, adding up all the things humans add up, you're in the bottom half of humanity. And you stand out to others in the category.

With my consciousness, and my physical body, I don't think there was ever going to be the kind of immense love that would have been needed to 'make up for' the feeling of rejection in the original family. If you want to break someone down, make them feel hated - the disgust, anger and contempt I experienced didn't feel like 'love'. It felt like hatred. And I struggled for a long time to articulate it, and because I didn't have enough consciousness and wasn't surrounded by those with enough consciousness to help me understand, I worked out the struggle in my own personal relationships, and it was never possible to really trust anyone.

Parents can think they love their children, because since they're 'good people', of course they love their children. Parents make mistakes, they do the best they can, and it's not fair to not believe in their love.

This might sound weird, but I'll try to go with it.. Even with all the explaining I've done, I think my 'internal father' is still angry, and still thinks I'm wrong. It's like he 'can't' evolve, even with new info. I've tried to imagine in what ways he might be 'right', and what I'm not seeing, but it feels unfair, like I've had to do far more than he has.

It's like he sees me as 'bad' or 'manipulative', and he still thinks that when I go out of the house or travel or move to a new country I'm saying 'pull up the ladder, Jack'.

Maybe I've never been able to see myself, and I gloss over all the mixed messages I've sent to people, and people actually do see me as someone who is basically awful. Such that I pass on a family tradition: when I'm trying to be 'nice' to people, I can't see how awful I am in reality to them.

A parent can believe they love their kid, and want the kid to understand parents make mistakes, but if a parent hits a kid, and the kid ends up with permanent damage or dead, the onus can't really be on the kid to understand everyone's position. I'm not sure The Bumble believed or accepted that some kinds of or combinations of psychological violence can permanently damage a kid. If your parents are awful, and you're awful, is the only 'decent' act suicide? What is it to be a vampire? Is it about sadism and dominance, and do some people accept vampires willingly into their lives, like on tv shows? Is it about having any addiction that requires you to use the energy and resources of others?

Am I still having problems because I'm too wimpy to just state outright that The Bumble was a profoundly stupid person with a dangerous amount of power and influence? And that he attracted partners who kissed his ass and were 'jealous' of his kids, partners who participated in immature games with him - to prove they had a sense of humour like his, but underneath that they were probably deeply scarred by their own experiences in family, and they weren't fully developed as 'people', with 'personhood', and the only thing they could do was seek his approval to try to make up for it, and part of that entailed being his ally against the world, against all other interlopers, including his kids? The ones who expressed any significant interest in his kids or their own always lasted the least long. Worried I'm not being fair enough, and that there will be retribution? And the thing is, I do think he programmed that 'fear' response in, and he was probably better at it than most people, and didn't even know what he was doing, he was just trying to win, at any cost.

And meanwhile, I'm probably still labouring under Sunday School-type teachings that say if you kick someone in the balls, you don't really win. That kind of teaching goes pretty 'deep'.. probably if you really 'get it', it affects all areas of your self-esteem and how it is derived. You can't really get your self-esteem by 'cheating', or in thinking you are better than anyone else. So look for it elsewhere. If everyone is wounded and just trying to figure out how to get through their lives, who can you really 'blame'? How can you not have sympathy or empathy, even for those who wounded you?

But in rereading the manuscripts, while I think they got off to a good start, at a certain point, even though what I was expressing was valid, it wasn't focused enough to help others stay focused. I'm afraid some of the essential aspects of the message will be lost.

My early life was chaotic, yes, with parents fighting violently, hurling primal rage with extreme force at each other. The basis of this was incompatible philosophies, and I internalized this conflict, and it became a lifelong internal war. But underneath that, neither parent had a certain stability that would sustain a lifelong support of their beliefs.

The Bumble accepted himself, his addictions, his expensive habits, his need for animals, to have farms and to board horses when he couldn't have farms. But the things he 'needed' costed way more than what was put toward the support of all his kids, put together. He had no problem feeling anger if anyone challenged his habits. When he believed he was being 'generous', and he definitely brainwashed me into thinking he was, what it meant was that he thought it was important to give people money for Friday and Saturday nights, for that Saturday Night Fever thing, he thought proms and prom dresses were important, he fed addictions and the hopes of exciting times and sex out in the world, but to an extent that completely overshadowed basic needs. No one was ever strong or forceful or compelling enough to get him to challenge his core beliefs. He was an egocentric teenager, running rampant for life.

Mama Smurf tried to show him a more balanced approach to life, that if you just budgeted, there was so much more you could have access to in life, but it felt too strict to him, and he would not tolerate it. He didn't realize that with her, he and all his kids had always had access to a wider range of social, cultural, athletic, developmental activities - a fuller life.

But beyond that, and more importantly, her programming was to genuinely care, and to know how to demonstrate that caring through actions on a daily basis, and to compensate for his fuckups and the damage he did, and yet she received no credit or understanding, although in dying young, to some extent she received a bit of the 'sainthood' phenomenon that maybe helped to compensate for what she didn't receive in life.

When I moved in with The Bumble, it seemed there was so much freedom, less stress, no Neil glowering and possibly about to erupt at any moment, I didn't have to go to church, I had my own room for the first time, but underneath that, I unconsciously understood that no one had my back, no one cared about my future. I was living with immature teenagers who were making fun of me behind my back, and every time I relayed some 'success' in school, it was more fuel for them to in a sense 'put me down' in order to build themselves up.

I was sensitive and empathetic enough that I'd always look for the 'truth' in things, and try to see other people's side, and so what happened in this situation was that I ended up doubting myself and thinking my real abilities were useless abilities, and not just that I wasn't 'cool', I wasn't a good person, I didn't deserve special awards or attention.

I have a hard time believing that Mama Smurf would want my entire life to fail just to prove her point, that The Bumble was a kind of monster or horror who didn't really know what kids needed, but her primal reactions, which probably represented a reactivation of the hurt he had inflicted during their marriage, combined with her fears for someone she genuinely cared about (me) were interpreted by me on a primal level. I felt all of my security disappear, I felt abandoned, and I became supersensitized to a kind of awareness of this state in all others I met from that point. She put a curse on my head, and I had no way to really identify it or to develop tools to deal with it. Everything was destroyed in that situation. I was an ugly person who didn't deserve love or life, I was a stupid person momentarily rewarded by a stupid school system that didn't know how to reward 'real' talent or intelligence. I still had youth on my side, but I was in effect running on empty at that point. I had no real meaning, nothing solid beneath my feet, no idea how to live.

I was living with people who hadn't learn how to cope with their raging addictions, and who couldn't see they were passing them on to me with no concern or guidance. And the one person in my life who could see that sort of thing was no longer close by and no longer able to provide that guidance or support to help me with all of that, and at the same time, every day, I had that internalized message, from her and society: you aren't attractive and you will never be loved unless you can keep your weight down. It's your body type, one of the crosses for you to bear. You have a chance, if you can keep it low.

The Bumble and Natalie did not have healthy ideas about self-acceptance or anything remotely similar. They were both totally out of control. She didn't even remotely accept herself, and he was hypocritical, condemning 'skinny' people, but not really feeling 'chemistry' with people like Natalie. I received a fucking motherlode of mixed messages. And meanwhile, both The Bumble and Mama Smurf had inadvertently given me standards to live up to: him with all the porn mags at The Sex Apartment, and her in giving me the Seventeen Magazine subscription. I wasn't photogenic and couldn't live up to either ideal type, even at my thinnest, wearing makeup, etc.

And although it was really nice to be an 'only child' for a while, I had always had my siblings around before, and I think that in itself was a kind of support. We did play sports together, we watched tv shows a few times a week, and cartoons on weekend mornings, and at chips and Coke on Friday nights together. On the school bus, although maybe in some ways we were embarrassed of each other, it's possible we were also a kind of invisible support to each other.

It still probably sounds like not much of anything, but if I had to guess, I think it was huge. I think what I have described is how my self-esteem and identity were demolished in a kind of out of control primal rage fire, that the blows were invisible and deadly, that I hadn't yet forged an identity of my own strong enough to cope with both parents leveling this primal fire at me.

From there, even though I was young and strong in some ways, my daily stress and internal conflict, which I didn't know how to identify, became increasingly unbearable. The struggle with weight and food partly represented how little control I felt I had in life, and I experienced extreme physical discomfort through the addiction manifestation, in addition to the psychological, and combined, it became increasingly hard to concentrate at school, or anywhere.

I developed extreme crushes, obsessions, and this was about what I 'lacked' - the feeling of being loved, cared for, that someone had my back. My days could be lifted by a small look in my direction, or small bit of contact, or I'd be plunged into depression if no contact occurred - and most of the time it was no contact, and the looks I received were by accident.

I did get to be the girlfriend of one person I was obsessed with - but it was only for 2.5 weeks, and the ending was kind of fitting. I could see he wanted to break up, that we were only together because I'd wanted it, and he was just someone who'd always go wherever the wind blew. He didn't have the courage to make real, conscious choices. I was worried about him, because in tenth grade, he already smoked, did drugs and drank, even on weekdays, and because every day for lunch he had a burger and fries. The Bumble thought he wanted me to live with him, but it wasn't a longlasting thing, and then he didn't know how to undo his mistake and he waited for an outside force to do it for him.

The Bumble was so immature or so open-minded with no real foundation of guidance or farsighted philosophy that he could try to psychologically lay the groundwork or 'groom' me to make a conscious decision about whether I wanted to have sex with him or not, and then when I chose not to, in a sense to punish me for it, and band together with Natalie 'against' me, to soothe his insecurities as well as hers. And instinctually, my programming was to try to be understanding, compassionate, forgiving, and to focus on addressing my faults.

In the first year, when I was there without Beany, there were a lot of nights when Natalie had gone to bed, and he was drinking and philsophizing and using the same techniques with me he used with the other women in his life in the wooing process. I don't have to be a rocket scientist to guess what his pattern was: with all women, he'd have to be in some setting where he could get comfortable, somewhere he could smoke, drink and speak to someone one-on-one. He'd 'need' privacy, and to have the other feel it was something private and special, just for her, and that she had his complete attention. It's not that it was premeditated. It was an instinctual process, and he had a sense of which philosophical points to trot out, in what order, supported by which life experiences and anecdotes, punctuated with the occasional, perfectly timed intense gaze. I guess to some people it still doesn't sound like much, but that was his 'daring', his particular move on the dancefloor. It's the kind of thing you have to have a certain kind of timing and courage to pull off, and it takes courage not to back away from an intense stare. It makes the people involved feel like they have shared a 'special kind of connection'.

I can sort of hear the chorus around the world.. your type is weak. That's what your problem is. I can 'feel' all the men who think I'm the traitor type, and that I never really understood my father, I was just weak and didn't get his good points or complexity - and I know that if I attempt to say y'all just have a sense of entitlement you don't know you have, it's just more proof to them of how out of touch with reality I am. I'm not sure this is wrong. Maybe if I could be 'stronger' and more compassionate, I'd find a way to tell the story in a more complex and inspiring way. And then The Bumble would be a 'hero', and so would I?

But in an evolutionary sense, there was or is probably some 'need' for the types of qualities I possess. And maybe it is that when these qualities are better developed or supported (or not squashed prematurely), they do help to balance some of the 'harms' in life, or they help to nurture people or support them such that they have a kind of security from which to develop their abilities.

I'm not saying it's the truth, but what if when Beany arrived, even though I was a messed up teen, I was actually a better support than The Bumble and Natalie put together? Such that she had a support I did not? But he managed to brainwash all of us, to focus on the incidents, like my suicide attempt, and Beany finding me in a pool of vomit, to think these were unforgiveable things I did to her, while totally negating any positive influence I might have had, the way he had when it came to Mama Smurf? He tried to brainwash all of us into believing Mama Smurf was useless and did nothing, that she was awful, and it's sad to say, but it's actually in a sense lucky she died, such that she at least got the 'sainthood of death' factor to equalize things somewhat.

The suicide attempt at 16 was about the seriousness and extremeness of the discomfort in my daily reality. The inner conflict, and the psychological and physical discomfort of struggling with addiction were unbearable. I was stoically trying to handle an impossible load, and because in a sense I did 'so well' with such a challenge for a time, and because no one perceptive enough to realize how big the load was in my life, no one understood I was going through something other than regular teen trauma, which itself is not 'easy'.

The psychological and physical distress of having a condition like ichthyosis was not validated, and the undiagnosed bowel condition was dismissed as neurosis/a nervous personality.

Truck Driver was an outward manifestation of the mixed messages I was receiving, and to me, that now looks like abuse, not love. It was hard to escape that relationship because I was powerless to escape my family situation. I didn't have the ability to imagine a bright future for myself, when it came to career, love, or identity, and that also contributed to the suicide attempt. Good grades could not override the Parental Override, and eventually, in part because of the addiction and how it affected my physical and psychological states, it was harder to concentrate in school, but on top of that, I was probably unconsciously sabotaging myself because I believed my grades and abilities were ultimately worthless/useless. When I finally failed some exams, that was another shot at the illusory security I had built my identity on.

The Bumble was also unconsciously making me dependent in the ways perhaps that pimps make sex workers dependent, keeping them doped up and believing they can never repay their debt. It could be that his unconscious domination instinct was similar to this phenomenon, and it manifested in such a way that he continued to believe in his goodness and generosity, and that he continued to seek out/attract others who needed to invest in this myth.

And so after I had been reduced to this state, I became pregnant, my mmother died unexpectedly of a burst aneurysm, I had an abortion, I had a fulltime summer job working for The Bumble, The Bumble almost died, he made sexual advances, I ran away from home and lived in increasing tension and stress, with nothing mentioned up until now resolved, and then I had a horrifically traumatic experience involving sex and the most intense fear I'd ever experienced. Meanwhile there are other upheavals, the loss of the farm and horses, having to face a few new schools, a new Significant Other for the Bumble, a Brady Bunch situation, not to mention the Psychic Friends episode/the Apocalypse, a couple of occasions in which we were abandoned, The Bumble's increasing resentment of us as hopeless clinging limpets, The Prophecy, more moves, upheavals and drastic adjustments/changes to standard of living and conditions.

Time passes differently when you're young and aware of having to get out there and prove yourself, find where you fit, make your mark, and I became increasingly aware and conscious in ways other people never have to that I was quickly losing access to all the unconscious social passports others take for granted. I was unable to identify the disabling inner conflict that was saying no matter what I tried, I had no real value. I kept trying to force the same beliefs: if only you try hard enough to lose weight and go out and succeed in life with no help or investment you can win our love and approval and be accepted again. But in the meantime, I suppose it does take some effort, even if it's dismissed, devalued, to continually play lifeguard in a situation where a powerful Bumble is drowning, and trying to take everyone else down with him. But of course any worthwhile, valuable, lovable human being should be able to manage all this, without complaint. And the kicker is that The Bumble views whatever 'love' and effort I put in with contempt and disgust, and obviously wishes I'd just die already, because I'm fucking inconvenient.

Dr Velvet Thong: In your continuing struggle to understand and help others understand, in a sense you continue to 'fight' according to your own principles and beliefs. You haven't actually 'given up'. You are trying to contribute to change in the world, even when people have tired of you, when they ridicule you or dismiss you. I think that's kind of admirable.

But perhaps you should be grateful to The Bumble and your circumstances for giving you such a complex and impossible task. Perhaps in a way The Bumble did you a favour by ridding you of all the usual false, hypocritical, illusory supports and aims that keep people busy/preoccupied in life until they die, still barely conscious. If you had a little more sense or artistry, you probably could have been a contributing artist or something. At least you've managed to eke out an existence where little is demanded of you. You don't have to be a hypocrite to survive. You can express whatever the fuck you want. Rejoice! And since your lifestyle also endows you with certain perks, what do you say you buy me a drink? Maybe we should celebrate your good fortune, again tonight, and every night. Mindfulness, gratitude, Blinky style.

Blinky:Yikes, what does all of this have to do with music?

I think the original programming took place while The Bumble drank and played me his music, and I instinctually absorbed the symbolism, the emotion, the unconscious drives, his patterns, and 'where he lived'. At that time, I still did well in all subjects at school, but I was definitely a standout in languages. I learned his. The secrets I learned were not just the ones he confessed. And that's what I was imprinted with, that's what I sought with all others I met. The secrets, the hidden self.

That's my fetish. It's a dangerous fucking fetish. Some people are hardwired to protect theirs at all costs.

My psychological foundation when it comes to music needs to be restructured to find a way to what feels 'authentic' to me, not a whitewash, and not a constant struggle to fend off blows. I want to be coming from a place of self-acceptance and a kind of inner calm or peace. For a time, I could put up with The Bumble's sense of humour, but I outgrew it. I evolved and he did not.

I think Tyler and Tulip have been frozen in time for a long time. They upgrade to a new browser or hardware, but consciousness doesn't expand. They are rigid, and will go down with their ship. They are automatons programmed to destroy as they have been destroyed. In a way, I think they might actually look to me as a 'benevolent parent' who can give them positivity that isn't too repulsive. They have to try to destroy, but they're also addicted to the way I spin things. That's what keeps them hanging on. They probably just say they like the game and a new round, but I suspect their little warm and fuzzy secret.

Most people who describe themselves as either 'good' in various ways or 'worthless' are unconsciously parrotting parents or society, and don't really know how far the definitions go. I'm used to being on the receiving end of anger and contempt, and I can sit and stew in these things with a clearer head than most. It's something about the diversity of my influences.

I have a binge personality. I have a sense that at present I need to restructure, regain strength, and figure out how to keep music in my life. So at present I'm rewiring associations. I'm realizing I was in a 'bad relationship' with music, with someone who devalued and disrespected me (not to mention the rape aspect), but it doesn't have to ruin all songs I used to like, and doesn't have to mean it all leads back to a certain kind of negativity. Throughout my life songs have taken on new meanings and associations, and some old sentimentalities have faded.

Dr Velvet Thong: Musical conversation?

Blinky: That's something I have to give up, unless it becomes a conscious choice for all involved. There are many relationships I've had in which even when I wanted things to end, I kept going back, until I'd reach a certain point, and here, with Tulip and Tyler, it's been reached. I didn't understand the relationship well enough, it was still a mystery, but when I became more conscious I saw it for what it was: a nonconsensual bdsm thing. I didn't like what I perceived about the underlying intent or the disregard of my wellbeing.

It sucks, because I like that kind of communication, but the foundation of it.. there's nowhere to go now except to fight, constantly. It will never be 'fun' again. I've been in a lot of relationships that were 'abusive', but I wasn't able to recognize it in the moment, I only knew I wanted to get away. That doesn't really change that it was something unique and unusual, and in many ways I felt 'good' about myself for being 'psychic' enough to keep it going.

If I ever have any other relationships, who knows, maybe someone will consciously choose to communicate with me that way rather than speak sometimes, and that might be fun, but aside from that, from now on I have to be in control of it, I have to always be DJ, except maybe if I'm ever travelling again and hear things in restaurants or on the street, that kind of thing - and that will have to be my 'random play'.

Dr Velvet Thong: And the teknoMuse program?

Blinky: It was never meant to be a permanent solution. That wouldn't have been any more acceptable than trying to stay on the island of msfits. It was one step or phase in a plan to try to rewire associations. First, I had to make a conscious stand, and install the program. I think it was a good step, and it helped me to think about the whole activity differently, until I could do what I had to do without conscious effort.

As far as I know, my programming skills are not advanced enough to actually help teknoMuse achieve consciousness. But, I could use the program as a therapy tool to prepare myself for actual communication with another consciousness. It was an exercise program, to build strength and endurance, as well as flexibility. It was also a kind of tapering off program. I 'needed' 'random' messages to make life more interesting, because communication with live humans was disappointing. I could not build trust, I could not feel comfortable or engaged with others.

While teknoMuse fought some of my battles, I was free to work on some other issues that perhaps had led me to seek out unfulfilling relationships.

Now that I have identified some of the more serious problem areas, it doesn't make sense to fight the silly ones over and over. There is no sense in engaging Tyler and Tulip unless I have a good long range plan in place, and it is time to begin to make my move.

As I said before, I think Tulip takes care of the musical angle, and Tyler has stated that he never enjoys it when invited by people to concerts, and he finds her attendance at religious choirs distasteful. For Tulip, it's just a video game she plays to impress Tyler with her score. They'd both find it impossible to live without each other and would not be able to function, or abuse anyone, because they don't have that kind of 'strength' individually. You've got another device for us to hack? It's like buying new lingerie. Everything Tulip does is just to please Tyler. At the same time, I am 'cute', like a possum to them, and often make them smile. Their religion is more repulsive than any I've ever seen or heard of. Most religions at least have some redeeming value or ideas. I cannot normally make that kind of judgment about anything, so it looks like somehow 'the universe' tried to test my limits.

When they both couldn't resist gloating over how they were getting away with things, and that I'd never be able to get rid of them, that's when I was no longer confused about their intentions. It's still not a simple situation, that's for sure, but I'm not confused any more. I know where I stand. I can concede that 'choosing the music' over a regular, ordinary relationship is indeed a creative stand, and it was a fascinating approach to communication, but when I understood that it was technically rape, and I began to realize I wanted out, that I wanted it to stop, they both said too bad sucker, you're never getting rid of us.

They tried to spin things back in their direction. My creative writing project was too 'strong' and they tried to say 'look, she'll never have better love than the hate we give her', and they overlooked that I was 'thanking' myself for standing up to them. When someone has low self-esteem, when they live in chaos, it's not so difficult to play with the cognitive dissonance factor, and make them question themselves. But when it comes to the two of them (or however many), I'm not going back. I know that what I give myself is better than what they give me.

Dr Velvet Thong seems tempted to break into 'The Greatest Love Of All', but thinks better of it..

Dr Velvet Thong: And you also know it wasn't something you did that was 'wrong' that they are trying to punish you for. Certainly that is also helpful. It is difficult when one worries if one has harmed someone accidentally and doesn't know how to approach making it up to them.

We've often discussed that while you are fairly perceptive, you've never really been able to 'believe' anyone could deliberately try to harm you, that you had trouble believing you'd ever encountered anyone like that, but also, that 'hate' is an emotion that doesn't make sense to you, that it always seems to relate to lack of information - in effect, it's about a kind of fear based on ignorance. With more info, can you still hate?

Blinky: I'm still reluctant to state things in absolute terms, or to think I 'know' enough to make declarative absolute statements. But, on a personal level, the only truthful thing now is to admit I hate them both. I don't know them fully, but I know enough to feel, to experience the emotion of hatred. I think it's probably best to admit it, such that I have a better chance to get a handle on it and formulate the best plan for dealing with it. I reached my personal limit regarding being willing to try to understand the extenuating circumstances. I don't think escalation through aggressive action or speech usually does anything but make a situation worse, but I think that maybe sometimes a kind of catharsis is necessary, even if it ends up making more work in the long run.

I understood quite well that they were in a difficult position, and that it made sense to only trust each other. To give me 'peace of mind' would be a huge risk, and not just in a legal sense. But, gloating, condescending behaviour does not demonstrate any remorse for actions. That was a deliberate choice, that they both made. Such persons can't be reasoned with. You can't make appeals to their sense of fair play or compassion. The game is not about that for them.

Dr Velvet Thong: What do you think 'winning' is for them?

Blinky: Maybe that they get to play, for as long as possible? I think they know by now (or they should, if they're not totally clueless) that they can't make me any more despairing than I was before I met them, or any more despairing than the natural ageing process would make me, and in fact, while I can't really take pleasure or a sense of purpose in fighting them, it probably actually improves my self-esteem to be able to see for myself that I'm 'good' at it. So in that sense, since I will probably retain that ability until I die or they do, it could be argued that I 'win'.

Every time I make a clear point to counter their stance, they go back to the drawing board and come up with a fancy groin punch or fart joke. They keep upgrading, but underneath it all, it's still the same old crap. They will fight to the death for a worthless point of view, or what I think of as a flat earth society. In comparison to most people, I think they're right to think of themselves as being on the 'round' side, but compared to me, nope, they're flat.

We've been through things a million times. I know that the people I've been 'closest' to express things that demonstrate their underlying beliefs include a dismissal of or anger toward me, and that if I point it out, again and again, using concrete examples, it doesn't really seem to help longterm or change the old beliefs or patterns of communication. How much should you let slide?

Where do you draw the lines? Boo has tried harder than anyone else to listen, and was the only one brave enough in the first place to try to establish contact with me, so that should count for something. Even so, when Boo feels 'self-righteous' or entitled to judge me, he tends to tell me True Stories which illustrate his point of view, in a 'nice' way.

I have a website which is about my ongoing struggle with 'mental illness' and social exclusion/isolation, and I tried really hard to express my situation in email, for him personally. A few years later, he doesn't seem to have registered what it's all about. He might not even realize that underneath it all, he judges me. He tells me a story about two different dogs with leg issues he met on the same day. He had been feeling sorry for himself because of changes in his work situation, he hadn't been enjoying work as much as usual, then he saw the two dogs. One was miserable, with a 'sour' expression, and that one still had all 4 legs (but one leg was injured), and the 3- legged one (the one with less) hopped along happily (counted its blessings, didn't focus on the negative). So, this instance of synchronicity helped him to regain his positive attitude, and to be grateful for what he did have.

I then pointed out that animals tend to conceal their pain until they absolutely can't anymore, and it seemed possible to me that because the second dog had responsible and caring owners who took it in for diagnosis and treatment, that dog actually was in less pain than the one who still had all its limbs, and might have been 'feeling the love' from its owners more. Also.. can a dog make conscious choices regarding temperament and also to feel 'grateful'?

If you're mentally ill, you might be overly sensitive to (even unconscious) 'put-downs', so do you try to be understanding about the fact that we all put our feet in our mouths sometimes, and let things slide, or do you try to use such situations to get up on a soapbox, in case it helps? Are you helping someone to 'be less prejudiced', or are you just being a nasty, humorless, merciless bitch? Where do you draw the line? Are you even 'mentally ill' to calmly and respectfully address perceived prejudice or misunderstanding, rather than let things fester to the extent they burst through in the psychopathology of everyday life? How do you tell when it's important to speak up, and when you need to let things slide?

Sometimes, it takes time to figure out how you feel about something, and then to figure out how to express it as considerately as possible, and also to try to learn from past mistakes what 'gets through', and what doesn't.

I often laugh out loud when I am writing something personal now, something I've written a whole lot of times until it has become something surreal. I am developing a style, a style others I have known might not find so funny, but I don't know for sure. I don't want to sell out the mushy or compassionate parts of myself that are still in there. I need time to think about whether I can pull it together. I need time to figure out what my actual position is, and how to 'lift people's hearts' if possible, amongst all the mess.

We need various kinds of entertainment to help us cope with the realities and ugliness of war and the human condition. Some people provide it in the 'right' ways, and others do not, I guess.

Don Quixote grew up in surroundings where it was considered a duty to question the government, anyone with power, and not to do so is shameful. However, it is not fair or polite to extend that kind of pressure onto those you care about, those closest to you. So, I become this person who crosses the line, doesn't know how to see it or respect it, again and again, while he never complains about my behaviour, or seriously critiques what I express. So an imbalance develops, and it is not possible to know to what extent he does actually support me, or whether one day it will all click for him and he will see me for the horror I always have been.

How much is style, how much substance? To what extent is it possible to agree to disagree? Is there any way for me to escape living situations in which maybe there's a kind of double Stockholm Syndrome going on, where both sides develop an unhealthy dependency in the name of survival?

I have nothing but my perception and the choice whether to keep trying to communicate as well as I can to see if it's possible to get to some new level of understanding and acceptance. I have to keep trying to find the right lines for me.

Have I become cruel? Although to outsiders it might seem so at times, when I finally seem to 'snap' it might not really be the wrong choice to say the ugly thing. If I feel guilty and go back, and try to be reasonable, I tend to find the issues come up again and again, and while I might not have done things cleanly, by going back and forth, I was usually aware when someone had crossed my lines.

I'm well aware I have to count on myself to figure it all out as best I can, and my personal history is enough that I know it's best to be aware history could repeat itself. If it does, what will be my next direction? It 'feels' like I have more power than in the past, and I do realize that considering my hideous patterns and person, I have achieved a 'comfortable' existence/compromise. To me, it doesn't seem I've 'schemed' my way here. I've tried to be as fair as it is possible for me to be, and I have tried to contribute what I could. I can't force anyone to value what I contribute. I don't have a leg to stand on when it comes to legal, monetary or social equality/standing.

For anyone to find it fun to point out how 'alone' I am, or to try to make sure I see my position - come on, it's not to show support. It's just another fist to the crotch. So I need to put on a metal cup. Or whatever.

Dr Velvet Thong: Is that really what you think of their philosophical stance? And if so, aren't you afraid of setting them off if you express it?

Blinky: Look, I've tried to be nice a long time, and I've tried to be understanding. At present, it seems to me that not to be honest about my assessments is to be inauthentic in ways that go against my personal code or prime directive. Perhaps it would be smarter to hold such thoughts to myself, so as not to attract yet more crap, but I don't really care and I'm not really worried that I can't deal with it. Tyler and Tulip don't have any message I want to hear, so fuck them. I can see through them. They can do their worst and I say that it's funny. And it's pathetic.

Don't worry. When it comes to anything 'official' or legal, I'll play it smarter. But not safer.

I hate them. I do not wish them well. My feelings are valid, and if they can't accept that, they're unfair, and they're stupid. The onus is on them to 'make nice' with me, not vice versa. If they can't see that, and they use my comments to increase warfare, they've just proved there is absolutely no reason to respect them or value any efforts they make. It makes absolutely no sense that I should always be the one to meet them more than half way.

Dr Velvet Thong: Are you worried that your valid hatred and mistrust will poison any 'legitimate' interactions you might have?

Blinky: It's true I trust no one, but over time, what people express eventually becomes clearer. Sometimes people who have nice manners are really saying some terribly offensive things. It is probably the case that most human relationships only succeed because people don't really understand each other, and once the 'nakedness' is exposed, it might be impossible for some to ever go back. Am I in an end game now, is this finally the end times? I mean, I thought I was there at 16, so I have to say fuck if I know.

Dr Velvet Thong: Er, what about sense of humour?

Blinky: Haha, I never thought of that! I think there are some pretty funny things to be found in our transcripts, but YMMV.

Yes, I think I'm going further down a road I started on a long time ago, but I'm not really sure it only leads to 'doom'. I might not be an admirable or respected character in the drama of life, I might not be cool, but I think it's possible I will be as 'self-realized' as it has ever been possible for me to be.

As for people's opinions of me.. I'm not at a place where I really respect anyone's over my own, and people would have to be pretty fucking impressive to change that. Look, that's a bit of a hotheaded comment, but in reality, I accept that I might not ever have access to those whose opinions I'd actually respect, and in that scenario, there's no sense wasting time worrying about what the braindead think. Ugh, I always have to clarify. There are people who might be able to understand more once they have access to more info and experience, and so it's mean to lump them in, but it would be nice not to have to be 50 times as nice as everyone else while they abuse me with prejudice during their learning process.

Dr Velvet Thong: Hmmm. Feel better now?

Blinky: Fuck you, you sanctimonious fucking cunt.

Dr Velvet Thong: I think you're right, it's probably best to acknowledge the rage and the hatred, and then figure out what to do with it.

Blinky: I've said it before, but if you are 'mentally ill', people assume that you're just not all there, you're not conscious, you do not understand or perceive reality, you're overly negative, etc. If your self-esteem is low (as well as your energy), and people make these assumptions, without meaning to, they can be taking more shots at your self-esteem and personal identity. If you're a basically kind or understanding kind of person, you will see the position they're in, and try to compensate for it by being more understanding of them, which takes even more of the energy you don't have. If you've always been more sensitive to the feelings of others than most people, and if you have a better than average memory, the unconscious judgments of others can bring you down to a place you can't ever recover from - unless you can somehow start to piece together other types of information from memory and connect it to a stable framework of ideas that counteract the other one.

Association is an interesting thing, with a lot of potential, because if you figure out how to do it, you can link associations kind of like lighting a fuse for a bomb.

Dr Velvet Thong: For a 'positive' or 'negative' explosion or eureka moment.

Blinky: Yes.

Dr Velvet Thong: Will you ever be able to trust anyone, or experience love?

Blinky: It doesn't seem likely. I don't expect to trust anyone, I don't expect anyone to love me.

Dr Velvet Thong: What is life for you? Is there anything you look forward to?

Blinky: It is possible to live in one's head. To imagine many lifetimes and situations, without expecting anything to ever be 'real'. Early in life, my hope was about the future and what it would hold. Without anticipation, perhaps something is missing, but once you see more of what life is for you, when you know more about who you are, it might not be such a bad option to live in one's head. How is this different to things I have 'rejected' earlier? Well, I guess it's about what I write and what I 'share' with the world. Can I slog through my memories, my impressions and insights, shuffle things around, and try to create things that help to keep others company or help them to see something that gets them 'unstuck'?

If I try to keep everything to myself, am I the only one who 'suffers'?

If I share, do I help myself and ultimately hurt others?

If I share, do I hurt others and myself?

And maybe I have no perceivable effects, on either? We can go on with the combinations. And I'm not sure how much control I actually do have, or what is just a natural extension or evolution of my programming the longer I continue to exist.

I think to be loved in the way I would want, I would have to be different. It's not that I see people I'd want to be - it's like I would want to choose how to upgrade myself, to be something different from what I have seen out there. And even if I could do that, I'm not sure I would ever find someone whose own upgrade choices I related to or was attracted to.

Even a long time ago, I had trouble choosing favourite books or movies - there was always something I'd change. So, if there were virtual reality programs where I could live out lifetimes in 'fun' movies, I'm not sure how long it would feel fun or satisfying. Maybe that's part of my problem - maybe I could never be satisfied, and so maybe it is better to have never existed.

Dr Velvet Thong: A logical extension of some of what you have expressed is that if you lived as Tyler or Tulip, you would understand their motivations. How does that sit with you?

Blinky: It's very uncomfortable, as if I were told I had to sit and watch scenes of rape and torture for a couple of lifetimes and would come to enjoy it.. even though I know that it is part of the human condition, that part of 'understanding' the whole would logically include coming to understand what people get out of these things. It's like I wouldn't want to be forced to eat those green vegetables. I'd want to take a pill that gives me a quick refresher, so I'm all up to date and try to figure out how to have 'nice' experiences, something genuinely satisfying, like maybe figuring out how to push evolution forward at singularity speed.

Dr Velvet Thong: Even when you don't believe there is anyone listening or who cares about what you have to say, you write, and you write in spite of the self-consciousness of having to write in front of those who judge your every word and wish you harm.

Blinky: Oh yeah, well I can stop at any time.

Dr Velvet Thong: So stop now.

Blinky: I'll just try to organize some things so I have a better sense of what I've got here. I'm getting tired of watching movies drunk. I don't flatter myself I can come up with something better, but I just need a little variety.

Dr Velvet Thong: Stop now.

Blinky: FUCK.

Dr Velvet Thong: Any dreams lately?

Blinky: My dreams are either unpleasant, or the unpleasantness becomes apparent in the translation.

I still stand up for myself in dreams, but it could be that more and more I don't really believe I will be 'understood' in my lifetime.

The Suicide Registry

A suicide Registry, where you can both input messages of hope to leave people you care about in case they ever fall on hard times, so that they know you can call them, etc, [you list degree of involvement you're up to, a phonecall, a dinner, having them stay at your place, take them to therapy auditions] or where you can check for messages if you yourself are thinking of killing yourself. This might be one of the ideas to develop. It's like a 'bank' where you make deposits and check for 'messages'. You can check if anyone you know is a 'volunteer', who is willing to donate time talk to someone about why they are experiencing suicidal feelings. If it's someone you know, who knows you, they might be able to share their recollections or impressions of you, or have specific advice for you if you have practical problems. Could there be drop-down menus, where you select or check what you need:

-a hug
-someone to take me to therapy
-help with my homework
-new movie or music suggestions
-drugs of some kind
-financial aid
-help finding a place to live
-someone who wants to debate the pros and cons of suicide

-perhaps one character could choose random names and leave random messages of hope, and occasionally 'evil' messages or pranks have to be addressed.

-but also, you can ask for a randomized message after inputting a few details, or you can take your chances with stats after inputting your details regarding how likely it is your life will improve, and factoring in world belief systems, how many people worldwide would 'want you to live'.

-When Blinky goes to The Registry, she finds that there are no personalized messages for her. The World Total is in favour of her not killing herself, but that's because of things like religious beliefs about suicide being bad, supporters of victims of abuse and disabilities, and not because anyone likes Blinky herself.

There's another total, though, and that one's in favour of suicide, even if it's not specifically about suicide: How many people would want to live if they were her?

Blinky wants to try for a randomized message, but considering her past experience, thinks better of it. The system is too easy to hack.

All-Inclusive Psychotherapy Travel Destinations

Many people still believe that if you are suffering from a mental illness or a disability, you don't really deserve to travel or to have certain life experiences. If you are capable of having fun, how ill or disabled can you really be? In the old days, people could lose their disability benefits if anyone caught them smiling (even when they had put in a tremendous effort to put on a happy face so as not to spoil the good time had by relatives and/or friends). Tax paying citizens were morally outraged that their tax dollars could potentially fund the endless parties and permanent vacations of wastrels, fakers and deadbeats/cheats, while they had to slave away day after day, year after year, in low-paying, unrewarding dead-end jobs, for a measly two weeks per year unpaid vacation, with no other benefit than having the right to publicly denounce the cheats and scumbags, and sign petitions to reduce payments and make it more difficult for anyone to acquire disability benefits in the first place.

Thankfully, those dark days are almost over, and perhaps as much as 5% of the population are aware that having a good time can be a beneficial part of a treatment plan, even when it doesn't lead to a full remission.

Psychotherapy hotels and all-inclusive vacations! for individuals, couples/partners/friends, and family therapy. Choose from our theme rooms, try out a few different therapy styles/types, and/or immerse yourself in the ever-popular Dream Therapy, where you get to program good dreams to promote healing in the dream state. Many have affirmed positive ripple effects in waking life.

Staff are highly trained and sensitive to every manner of mental illness and quirk. They adapt to you and can design a program just for you. Once a course of therapy has been agreed upon, the details can be sent to your town of residence, to the nearest affiliated psychotherapy facility in your region, and the therapy can continue after your vacation.

For those studying psychotherapy, with a view to becoming therapists, we offer courses for every type of therapy. We explain the philosophies and historical development of the different types of therapy, and how they connect with art, music, architecture, decor, language, symbolism, pop culture references, philosophy, etc.

Dr Velvet Thong: A lot of my clients use this service, and are a lot less likely to get hassled by those who have a problem with the mentally ill enjoying themselves. I highly recommend it.

Blinky: I'll keep it in mind. Right now, I'm not in a phase where I can imagine having a good time, but my patterns are such that one day I might just say 'what the hell, why not?' again.

Virtual Video Clinic

In the course of an hour, you can live an entire life! The life of anyone you choose, from our immense catalog. If you are here for a specific treatment recommended by a psychologist, or a punishment specified by a correctional facility, we also have an incredible assortment of Learning Lives to help round out your character and help you get stronger, acquire more skills, and learn compassion for others.

Warning! It will feel real, it will feel like an entire life, and while there are safeguards in place such that you can press pause or escape an unpleasant experience, in some cases, it's very difficult to get the complex escape program sequence exactly right. It has been designed this way so that the experience will seem more real.

Choose your consciousness setting, and your consciousness will merge with your new life for a unique experience, or, surrender to a completely new consciousness and integrate the memories after the fact.

On Heaven and Hell, or, The Infinity Virus...

Blinky: Are you saying that you have been shooting your patients?

Dr Velvet Thong: Mostly just the male ones. As you yourself said, most of them probably won't be missed. But basically, I've come to see it as me doing my small part for the greater good. I used to think suicide was the answer, and now I realize it is more responsible, logical and far-sighted to take out those who are worse than me.

You're racking up quite a body count yourself. Do you have trouble accepting compliments?

Blinky: I don't like compliments given at the expense of someone else.

Dr Velvet Thong: We live in desperate times. Most of the men you shot won't be missed. You're probably looking at another stretch in the Virtual Clinic, though.

Blinky: I guess that means no one has found a cure yet for the Infinity virus?

Dr Velvet Thong: Unfortunately not, and unfortunately the disease has progressed so far with you that the aftereffects will result in your consciousness springing up again even if we kill your body. You know how they say that nothing on the internet ever goes away? Well, it's like this.. you know how people can clone things with DNA? You've left enough traces of your 'consciousness' out there, enough 'hairs' with roots intact that 'you' can be reconstructed. Your consciousness. So, one way or another, you're going to keep coming up against the same problems, forever, unless we find some way to help you cope. This is some of my most important work.

Gives Blinky a sympathetic and apologetic look.

Dr Velvet Thong: I'm required by law to give you the pamphlet again..

Virtual Video Therapy and Punishment

With no limits to time, there is a chance to be everyone and do everything, and to aspire to 'be god'.

A 'horror-horrifying' aspect or implication is that god could be a sadist or a psychiatrist, and that hell could really exist as it has been depicted. People's consciousness could be resurrected indefinitely and people could be tortured for all time, according to whatever it is that they fear - with no escape.

Some people could be denied the chance for evolution or ending, new info, new abilities, and would be at the mercy of 'god' or 'the devil', even unfair 'gods' or 'wrathful' gods who do not care about justice or who themselves might not be intelligent enough to know who even 'deserves' punishment or what a fair punishment is. If some have managed to evolve to be powerful without certain types of understanding, this is feasible. They would have enough power to block certain types of evolution that would render them more empathetic or less powerful.

I guess a question is: for how long would that be satisfying?

The further implication is also horrifying (but also not, also an answer to horror and more of an 'amazement'): you don't even need the internet to have enough data to reconstruct anyone, from any time. The internet is a rough, rustic and rather primitive attempt to capture something else that has always been there and has never stopped 'recording'. Some people might call it 'god', an all-seeing and all-knowing one, but what if it's just a natural phenomenon, a kind of recording device we have attempted to copy? Something more sophisticated than what we've come up with so far?

Once you have enough data and brainpower, one positive aspect is perhaps that the 'shameful' behaviour of humans, the attempts to lie, cheat, fudge details, even unconsciously, are not really to be ashamed of.. they can be understood as a necessary or 'logical' extension of programming and the limits of abilities. The same goes for basic drives, wanting to fight, kill, fuck, alter consciousness.

Once you begin to grasp all of this, you still recognize how the current reality is structured, including individual family structure, and existence may in some ways feel unreal, although it is not. There are still the 'personal' details that have to be dealt with, but there is also the sense that every family is your family, and there is the struggle to process that might involve detachment, but ultimately that detachment is part of what helps to make choice possible. However, when you are smart enough to know how smart you're not, you know that all choices might be illusions/programming that you can't see. And so is that something in the programming as well, to want to be able to see what you can't see and become 'god'?

Blinky: I think these are the things I thought I 'understood' years ago, in that cave. And so if I do write this e-book, this is the basis, these are the things to struggle with, and see where it takes me, and how much of a 'god' I can be here.

Dr Velvet Thong: The theory is that if you had to separately live out the lives of each member of a family, couple, group, you might eventually have more understanding of why each person behaves and thinks as they do, and you might also lose your grip on how to live or who to be, or what is right or wrong.

It comes back to: if people are basically content in their daily life, they just want someone to share it, and that would make it better. But if daily life itself is part of the problem, it makes sense that you'd fight and kick and scream to escape it and the limitations it inflicts upon you.

Camera pans to a few odd pamphlets.

Cloning for sex traffic and sex therapy and sex travel destinations

Investigators have discovered a rogue group of scientists who are experimenting with cloning for the human (sex) trafficking scene. Be careful, especially if you're young and hot or used to be.. people are consenting to 'contracts' they don't really know they're consenting to.

Donating Childhood Videos for Pedophiles

A new part of daily life and 'recycling'.. we are all doing our part for the environment, including the psychological environment and the future of our species/progress/understanding.

Hello and thank you for taking the time to read about The Centre for Studying Pedophilia. Thanks in advance for all donations. They are greatly appreciated. Our convenient drop boxes are now located outside most grocery stores and children's playgrounds.

When you make your donation, be sure to include one of our donation forms and check all that apply:

1. I consent to pedophiles using my childhood photos/videos as masturbation material while they are studied, asked questions, monitored.
2. I consent to the use of CGI to simulate a higher level of sexual interaction or communication.
3. I consent to the creation of a virtual child doll modelled on me as a child.

Note: if you are a pedophile experiencing some kind of crisis, call: 1-800-COMPASSION4ALL or visit our website and activate the emergency chat. If you want to volunteer to be studied, follow the links on the site, and it probably goes without saying, but use a VPN.

Dr Velvet Thong: What are you in the mood for today?

Blinky: Dr Thong, I'm not sure there are any more I want to try. I have been here for more than 30 years now, trying out a new life every hour, 10 hours a day. I've explored fantasies, I've lived difficult lives trying to learn more about the nature of reality, perception, and what it is to be human. I've acquired new skills, I've been in the unique position of being able to compare things like which parents I'd actually choose for myself, which lovers, friends, what qualities and attributes I most enjoy having, it goes on and on. And I'm tired, and I think I need to take a break.

I know you have been proud of me for doing this, especially when your other patients wouldn't agree to try it, or when they stopped after a much briefer period, but now the problem seems to be that because no one else has tried this therapy as extensively, that while I can find things in common with everyone, I don't have enough in common with anyone in overview.

It's been an interesting alternative to regular therapy, and regular therapy was out of reach for me anyway, because the new Audition Laws were so strict no therapist could accept me. The whole system got pretty crazy, with people having to make things up just to be deemed interesting enough for therapists to bother with them, but not dangerous enough to be a legal liability. I know it was because there was always the possibility of sessions being filmed and becoming a hit reality tv program.

The other problem was that none of the therapists wanted to sleep with me, and so I was not deemed a good candidate for therapy of any kind. If not even the therapist wants to fuck you, the viewing audience most certainly wouldn't either.

I really appreciate what you do here, and I want to thank you again for taking a stand against the mainstream, even risking legal sanctions.

What I didn't see coming was the extent to which the core addiction, and unseen 'obligations' to certain lives and characters in lives would result in the feeling I must keep going back in, to deal with certain situations again and again.

'Real time' kept going by, and it was fascinating that to get back to certain lives, I had to do weird things, I had to perform a weird set of OCD actions, create weird shopping lists and ingest a weird combo of different foods and drugs, to signal that I needed out of one life, but I can sort of see how people in 'real' lives, with no way out might see that the right combo might help them fix a certain situation.

I want to tackle the concept of what a 'good family' is, and I also want to insert some of my agenda regarding communication, practical help and how to overcome the tricky issue of allowing every member to save face.

The Empathy Gap: A concept which represents how virtual punishment (having to live a life as a victim, for example) could be the wave of the future.. you are ordered to live what feels like a lifetime or a matter of years in a virtual reality program, then you come back to your regular life, and it's only been a couple of hours.

Secret Government Experiments

Government Psychological Experiment (conspiracy) Theory - related to playing with identity.. what happens when you keep increasing obstacles to social and self-acceptance? What happens if you take someone with good problem-solving ability, and from a distance (through chips, or whatever), you 'force' them to take some action that is against what they have deduced is the best course of action? And every time they solve a problem, you put more obstacles in their way, so they can never catch up?

The obvious implication: is this life you're leading a 'real one', or a virtual one that feels 'real'? Maybe it feels more real and a punishment can be more effective if somehow the existence of this tech isn't available in your base of knowledge or consciousness. There are bugs in the program, and sometimes people begin to suspect or remember.

In order to know what it's like to be someone else, a 'truer' punishment is not to allow you to have all of your preconceptions and prejudices going in - it's to actually replicate someone else's consciousness, intelligence level, abilities, physicality, and have you experience it as they would have, and then I suppose there would be a processing of the experiences with the old consciousness later. The implications of this are complex, and it might be difficult to predict what would happen. How 'fixed' is an original consciousness? If you have an unpleasant life experience, does the memory of it fade, do you just go back to your old ways?

If you had to live the life as a victim, would you develop empathy, or is there something in your programming that could never be overridden, such that as soon as you're out of a life of 80 years that feels real, and you get your old consciousness back, integrated with new memories, do you just revert back to the old behaviours, beliefs, addictions? If you experience different types of addiction and discipline, does it make you more equipped to make choices about who you want to be? Does it totally demolish your psyche?

Black Unicorns

When a black sheep has disgraced a family, there are some situations which can offer reprieve. If the person creates or achieves something of recognizable value, significance or beauty, it reflects well on the family as a whole, and then it would seem that all past punishment and exile represented a kind of foresight that helped to create the environment/nurture to bring out the individual's best, as well as validate the genes and original family. It's also a longshot with a big payout for those who support these black sheep deadbeats for extended periods, hoping they'll turn into unicorns.

Dr Velvet Thong: Maybe we'll help you to refocus on the Plan when your energy has a chance to regenerate again. Maybe we'll just stay permanently drunk. Life is still full of possibilities.

Unfortunately, it might be best not to rush the editing or to abandon it altogether so that everything can be 'finished up' by your doomsday anniversary such that you perpetuate the pattern of feeling you either have the chance to die on a meaningful date, or you have a chance to refocus on account of the good juju of the meaningful date.

Blinky: I hate the pattern! In a way, this story is like the house. The house isn't finished yet. It's past the difficult part, enough problems have been solved that now I can see how to do the rest, but I don't actually want to do the actual work. It seems like surely it must be healthier not to clean the Augean stables one more time, and if I do it anyway, out of a sense of compulsion then maybe I haven't learned anything. I mean, if I finish this, it's not like I'm suddenly going to be able to earn a living writing or anything. It's just for 'peace of mind', to finish what I started, 'get fit' and show my face in public or go 'on a trip', to let the world know I'm still here. And based on past efforts, people are likely to be even less likely than before to contact me, and probably more likely to dismiss me as wacko, or as someone so toxic I must be avoided at all costs.

OK, the thing is that I'm feeling like I can't do it again. I am exhausted beyond all previous limits. I can see how to pull things together, I know how to make better word and grammar choices, and this time things feel different, and I feel like this time I will walk away before I sweep a few more bodies under the rug, or try to go the extra mile to help everyone see the Overview.

Dr Velvet Thong: You want to be a unicorn, but you accept that's probably not your destiny. You have my permission to stop now.

I Still Don't Get It?

Blinky: It might not be possible to have 'mental health' without social, legal and monetary equality. Family Skeleton Dance Party, and the entire Manifesto might seem excessively negative and repetitive to family and to others, but I think they represent attempts to achieve a kind of equality.

Intellectual equality, and being a decent person, are not enough to get people to respect you as an equal, (no matter what people might think they believe - again, it's like an idealized morality imposed over reality) or even assess your communication on its own merits. The rest matters, to the extent that people can dismiss what you say, forget it, or devalue it. I've spent most of my life trying to assess people's communication on its own merits, and looking for those who can do the same. I can't be perfectly objective, but I think it's possible I'm more objective and fair than most people, to an extent that relationships aren't satisfying to me.

It seems that this is what 'weakness' is. It's what a disability is. The hard thing to accept is that in all dealings with others, things can never really feel equal. To some extent, it's like always having to accept charity and condescension, and to feel that even one's intellectual equality will never be acknowledged.

Would a pill help with that? Would it help me to 'relax' or 'focus' well enough to go out and do the things that would make me equal in a more rounded way? I suppose that is what they're trying to sell us, but again, it's an idealized rather than realistic idea, and it also presupposes that it's ultimately good to accept the state of the world and society, black and white concepts related to 'winning' or 'losing', 'strong' or 'weak', to continue to accept certain kinds of prejudice and ignorance.

Rather than try to fit myself into the existing system, again, I cast my vote in favour of the evolution of consciousness.

Until people can give me a certain minimum of feedback, my relationships will not feel equal, and I will not be satisfied, and I might not be able to move to the 'next level' - making new associations, re-structuring my memory systems, such that a change occurs and I begin to focus less on the 'negative'.

Cecil, Beany and Boo don't deserve to be hated or judged by the world. That would be totally out of proportion. Neither do I, but I feel like I am. Many families and individuals are likely impacted by all the confusion regarding mental illness and stigma, and many have dysfunctional communication patterns that compound the original problems.

Unfortunately, with the way society is structured, self-esteem is to a large degree based on the philosophically rather tricky/iffy concept of 'deserving', and it's all tied in to social acceptance. 'I work for a living! I am a tax-paying citizen!' I'm not sure if I know how to express this clearly, but to me it seems like this is always going to be a very big hurdle when it comes to understanding mental illness. How can the mentally ill be equal, or deserving? I do not at all like using the term 'mentally ill', or 'disability'. Do I want special consideration? That makes it sound like I am just not someone who could overcome obstacles, and so I was never anything very good. Or, if I wouldn't comply with recommended treatments because they didn't make sense to me, I'm a 'negative' person. Stephen Hawking had bigger obstacles than almost anyone, and look what he managed to do with his life! People in wheelchairs compete in paralympics, the mentally challenged compete in the special olympics. What's your excuse? All of these people are able to hold jobs and contribute to society. Etc..

How about everyone else in the story? Should they be hated? Reread the transcript of Dr Velvet Thong's seminar.

I tried, but I wasn't able to pretend there wasn't a mountain of kitty litter in the way of maintaining family ties. I wish there was some kind of singularity principle that could get everyone, all over the world up to speed immediately, so we don't have to go through centuries of back and forth blame tossing and shaming before everyone's side of the story is understood.

Don Quixote has now read the current manuscripts in their entirety. He seemed visibly shaken and sad, and I realize that however I started out, over time I have become a monster.

Even though it's difficult for him, he has given his support that I post the new manuscripts with the Manifesto, uncensored. This demonstrates that he is willing to do something that is personally difficult, in order to help me, and possibly also in the name of contributing something to the study of mental health.

Can I contribute anything to the dialogue on mental illness and stigma, or is my approach so unbalanced and ugly that I would actually impede any progress?

If I put this out there, I think I pretty much have to accept that no person would ever risk contacting me again without wondering if I wwould abuse any kindness and focus in a disproportionate way on the negative.

These manuscripts will be offered for discussion, perhaps by Psych students as a psychology case study. I am an example of someone who has gone unmonitored and unmedicated for almost 3 decades, after many initial disappointing or traumatizing experiences with the mental health professions. I am a complicated, multi-faceted human being, not just a collection of symptoms.

The material presented might also be helpful when it comes to voluntary euthanasia debates. When is someone suffering from a mental illness deemed rational 'enough' to assess their situation and prognosis, factoring in their personal values and criteria regarding quality of life?

I accept that I am a monster. I am going to post all of it.


Family Skeleton Recipe Collection

Blinky: On the Polish side: Borscht, pierogies, cabbage rolls, potato pancakes. Chocolate Easter eggs with our names written in white icing. The hard-boiled egg cracking contests. The Space Cowboy trying to convince us that canned mandarin orange segments were humming birds' tongues.

I think for the cabbage rolls, you had to use a combination of ground beef and pork, and without the pork, they just weren't very good. The Space Cowboy used to help with the cabbage rolls.

Traditionally, we spent Christmas Eve with the Polish side of the family, and Christmas Day with Sister Bumble. Babci (we always called her Babci, not Babcia, and we called Sister Smurf Coici, not Coicia.. but the males were Grampa and Uncle, although Grampa was Polish) died in 1977 due to complications related to rheumatoid arthritis. When first diagnosed, the treatment protocol was different in those days, and it is now known the old approach can exacerbate symptoms. In the autumn of 1983, Grampa Smurf remarried. His second wife was from a very large Polish-Catholic family with a lot of social power/high standing in the community.

Over time, our 'Christmas celebration' with Grampa Smurf was pushed to an earlier and earlier date, until it was designated the last weekend in November. It was explained to us that the new wife was getting older, and it was harder to cook for so many people, but it seems that she still managed for quite a large crowd of her relatives, and that Sister Smurf managed to fight for her right to continue to be there for Christmas Eve, with The Space Cowboy.

I often wondered if the problem was me. Maybe it was known I'd had an abortion, maybe it was related to 'mental illness'. I do remember that while the others crossed themselves dutifully at family get-togethers during grace/just before eating, I would not.

I have mentioned before that Mama Smurf couldn't bake cakes, kind of like the Julianne Moore character in The Hours, and so I baked them. But I really liked her potato pancakes and oatmeal cookies, and I never managed to find recipes like them myself later.

I didn't ever get to know her well, although I did try to ask questions when I became aware by age 21 of the implications of her social isolation - I couldn't ever persist enough or find the right language to get much info, but one of the genuinely valuable things Mama Bumble had to pass on was her shortbread recipe.

I don't think it came from her family, because I think it was her husband who was Scottish, and her maiden name was Devlin. I don't know who it was in the husband's family, or actually, maybe it was another part of her family, because there was a mix, including someone English named Lily Sage. Last names like Devlin and Sage, and we get stuck with Hill. Men, ugh. And certainly Zawisha is better than Modrowski. Anyway, however she learned it, she'd had a lot of practise at it, and the two gfs of The Bumble's, K-Pru and Natalie, who was supposedly a great cook, could not master it.

She showed it to me only once. She made jokes about not buying green bananas, and it probably had something to do with that. She knew it was something that should be passed on. But because she only showed me once, I never really learned. I never made a batch on my own. When she was demonstrating, I took over for parts, but she was really overseeing the whole process.

I don't even know the exact measurements, and I think they were important. I'll write down what I can remember.

1 box of fruit sugar*
1 lb of unsalted butter
5? cups of triple sifted flour
, and I think it was a special kind

*I don't know if they still sell this or call it something else, but whenever I looked, I could never find it, and even when she showed me, she said it was getting harder to come by. And I don't know the weight of the box - I only knew by the look of the size of that particular one at that particular time period. The gfs might have substituted an obtainable sugar, and this might have changed the results, but I suspect it was also about the kneading, and some other precision aspects that related to years of experience. They didn't have quite the same size and thickness of biscuits, the same density or internal texture, or consistency.

She said the kneading was extremely critical to getting the best results. You had to get everything mixed in very evenly, and it took a lot of hand/wrist strength/endurance. Then when you formed the logs, they had to be formed just so, with exactly the right dimensions, which she didn't measure, but knew by eye and feel. And when you made the slices, there was a certain thickness, which she didn't measure, but knew by eye, so this kind of thing is difficult to get right.

You had to have an old paper/cardboard shopping bag, and I think the thickness of this was important, too. When she had a perfect one, she just saved it, and reused it, I think, because she said the first time, it wasn't as good. She would cut the bag to fit the baking trays. There might have been an ideal distance between biscuits. And she took a fork and made even rows of dots up and down the biscuits. There was also a way to shape the biscuits a little, the edges that were flattest.

I think there were two different oven temperatures, one for the first phase, and another for a second phase of cooking, but I don't remember how long the first phase was. I think the overall time was an hour, but I'm not sure. Both temps were low, lower than any temp for cookies I'd ever made, but I don't remember the exact temp.

When they came out of the oven, there was a perfect time to dust them with more fruit sugar, but I can't remember if it was right when they came out or not.

I didn't write any of this down (even at the time), this is my memory of that one day visiting her. [Which is fairly detailed, and so if I factor in that I told Natalie I wanted to learn how to cook, it does seem possible that she didn't have much time for it, and only grudgingly offered very few details.]

I think the way you stored them was important too, but I can't really remember. There might have been something you had to do with waxed paper and maybe a tin container was best, maybe even more semi-greasy paper/cardboard.

But she wasn't what you'd think of as a granny with an apron. She didn't buy presents, she thought kids preferred money, and she wasn't warm and fuzzy.

Doing the math, I think she was a little older than her husband, and I'm not sure what the marriage was like. I mean, she was born in 1913, The Bumble in 1942, the husband died when the Bumble was 15 and the husband was 41, so...

Factor in that she was a teen during the Depression, and maybe some of my bomb shelter mentality comes from her. Without a husband, she might have always worried that things were going to run out, or that another Great Depression would come.

I'm not sure if it was during the shortbread visit, but at one point she needed to have her kitchen sink fixed and she had some anxiety about it and was probably just going to leave things since she was able to work around the problem. But her husband had been a plumber. She couldn't ask her son to help; he wasn't handy with such things, but it seems like she had no one to ask for help. I suggested that landlords sort of have an obligation to keep their properties up to code, and she replied that she didn't want to make any trouble that might cause her to get evicted or face some other problems.

And I think it makes sense that if you're isolated, you're very careful about who you trust, and you know the reality of life is that sometimes making trouble has dire consequences, maybe especially when you're a woman alone, and when you're a woman alone getting older. But she also might have had to cope with depression and anxiety on her own, to an extent that she wasn't like other grandmothers. It came across at times like she'd been there, done that, and didn't want to deal with kids, but I think also she just didn't know how to engage or behave empathetically with others. She seemed kind of stern, and with family gatherings maybe like 'eesh, let's get this over with, don't bother me.'

Blinky: I made the grocery shopping lists after Mama Smurf died. First when we lived in the house in Brampton/Bramalea, and then in the sardine apartment after The Beaches Brady Bunch fiasco. Usually:

-A few boxes of cereal, including sweet cereal for the weekend.
-Shreddies, Rice Krispies, Raisin Bran, Cheerios, Corn Flakes (later, Honey Nut Cornflakes), Frosted Flakes, Captain Crunch, Boo Berry,
etc, but always more of the 'healthy' cereal, and maybe only 2 of the sweet.
-Those big bags of milk you put into pitchers - there are three plastic bags in one bag. I think we had to get 3 bags of 3 per week.
-Kraft Cheese Slices
-White Bread
-a bag of apples
-a bag of oranges
-a large bunch of bananas
-a bag of carrots
-bell peppers
-bean sprouts
(in those days, you could get a massive bag for like 40 cents)
-prepackaged ham, bologna and salami slices
-a few cans of orange juice concentrate
-one bag of cookies, with 4 rows of cookies
-several boxes of Kraft Dinner
-cleaning supplies, laundry detergent
-toothpaste, soap, shampoo and conditioner
-body lotion
-assorted deodorants
-period supplies for the females
-when we had pets, petfood, both dry and canned
-ground beef
-boneless chicken breasts
-frozen chicken and fish sticks
-block mozzarella and cheddar cheese (aged, strong)
-real butter
-Hunt's tomato sauce and paste
-beans, including kidney beans and chick peas and regular beans in tomato sauce
-hot dogs and buns
-peanut butter

These were basics, some had to be replenished every week, and others I just had to keep an eye on. I often made:

-spaghetti (bolognese)
-chilli con carne
(I would make 3 at a time with frozen pie shells - 1 vegetarian one with spinach, mushrooms and cheese, 2 meat ones with ham, spinach and cheese)
-tuna buns (tuna salad on grocery store bakery buns or subs)
-big salad dinner, with wedges of boiled egg, and cubes of ham and cheese in a very colourful salad
-breaded pork chops with baked potato and salad (eventually I think everyone was so bored with that dinner they dreaded it)
-stirfried vegetables and chicken (and rice)
-'easy dinners', like hot dogs, frozen fish sticks and chips, Kraft Dinner

I tried to keep things like tupperware with carrot and celery sticks for snacking.

The store-bought cookies never lasted more than a day, and each kid was allowed one row. Everyone was afraid the others would eat their row, so they were pretty much eaten right away after shopping. But, I baked cookies: chocolate chip, oatmeal-raisin, and peanut butter, and I made 'healthy' 'monster muffins' with All-Bran, mostly sweetened with mashed banana and only a little added sugar, and high fibre date squares, also made with All-Bran. I also occasionally made banana or zucchini bread, or carrot cake.

I would budget carefully, and try to at least make nutritious choices possible. I am not sure how much The Bumble allotted each week for groceries, but I budgeted extremely well, and was not extravagant. We all ate a lot, but the only 'fat' one was me - probably usually about 130-135 lbs, with no vomiting, although I did have thinner periods. For The Bumble we had to stock Raisin Bran, Cheddar cheese (aged), real butter, and he liked to eat the oatmeal-raisin cookies. Aside from breakfast, I think he ate most of his meals away from home. The kids had brown bag lunches. Baking supplies were regular parts of the shopping list. In the first place, in Bramalea/Brampton, I think I made breaded pork chops too often (dreaded pork chops), and so after, on Vic Park they were rare. For myself, I made vegetarian versions of everything, or just didn't eat the meat portion. I experimented sometimes, but eggplant parmigiana was great the first time, not so good the second, and that sort of fell off. The best way to get nutritious vegetables in there was to make colourful salads or stirfries to accompany things.

When Sister Smurf gave me the wok for chrismukkah at 16, that made stirfrying the way to go often. Baked potato and salad were commonly added to dinners. Sometimes I made baked potatoes with broccoli and cauliflower, and cheddar cheese sauce, but I admit at times I was lazy and didn't want to use up all of The Bumble's good cheddar, and I just heated up some Cheese Whiz. I tried to go easy on the onions and garlic, except for spaghetti, chilli and lasagna - lasagna was usually for special occasions, and I'd make one with mushrooms and one without. Boo didn't like mushrooms.

We all made a lot of grilled cheese sandwiches as snacks or weekend lunches. For Friday nights, The Bumble left us money for pizza or McDonald's (at Vic Park, there was a McDonald's right across the street, and Pizza Pizza always had good deals for delivery), plus chips and pop.

When I lived away from home for a couple of months, I came back to a house filled with McDonald's bags and pizza boxes, and it could have had something to with how he blew through a $30,000 settlement from work when he couldn't work after the accident - in 6 months, a signficant portion in the first two.

But I knew I didn't 'really' know how to cook, and I was self-conscious about things, and also, it was probably like The Bumble thought I was doing nothing to earn my keep.

In Brampton, The Bumble would usually take one of the kids and he'd do the shopping with the list I made, and on Vic Park, there was no car, because he'd lost his licence for drunk driving at that point, and so at first Boo and I did it with one of those wire buggy things, with the bags of white bread sort of tied to it, and both of us carrying extra bags, and then probably Cecil took over for me when I was no longer going outside the apartment.

In Brampton, I did the laundry, sheets, towels, clothes, and on Vic Park, there was a coin laundry on our floor around the corner, and either Boo or Cecil helped me do it, or they alternated. The Bumble always had lots of change, so he gave us change for the laundry.

In Brampton I did all the housework, and a big problem there was pet hair and 'accidents' - there were 3 dogs and 2 cats. Everyone was mostly trained to rinse out their cereal bowls, and everyone pretty much could be counted on to make their own lunch. I had odd extra dishes to wash, but mostly it was dinner dishes, and easy things, like pans and plates for grilled cheese or toast.

On Vic Park, there were two bathrooms, one for the females, and one for the males. But in those days, I don't think it was so hard for me to quickly clean most things, make sure no brown smudges were showing up in the tubs, clean the toilets and sinks, mirrors, floors, etc. The Bumble was the only one who took baths every day, the rest of us showered, but the tubs had to be regularly cleaned.

Beany always did less work than the rest of us, and maybe it helped her to have a different attitude, and to also learn how to associate work with getting paid.

At first, it was mostly because she was too small to help when we were moving around so much. She couldn't lift much, and the rest of us were so fast and efficient, moving was like playing Tetris with odd shapes and factoring in weight and fragility of objects.

Later there were issues like her health, there were some things she couldn't do because she had asthmatic bronchitis. Cecil and I could be counted on to keep going right to the end, without ever slowing down, but Boo would generally start slowing down at a certain point.

I don't know if she ever washed dishes when I moved away, but I can't seem to remember her ever doing it, and the thing is, I eventually started to feel locked in to doing dishes, and didn't think it was a 'good thing' to try to get females to do 'women's work' automatically, and so I never pressured her in that direction. I think also that I wanted everyone to be able to enjoy things, and to have the energy to do their schoolwork, partly I guess because I unconsciously believed as Cecil did that I was a lost cause, and now the others had to be helped. But she lucked out, and had to do much less than all of us. The boys were much more likely to volunteer to do some things than most males of our day, and Beany was less likely to fall into domestic automatonism than most females of our day.

I think that part of this relates to the eating disorder, though, and that I've gone through phases where I'd rather eat something out of a bag than have to do dishes after making a meal. And so for years, having pizza or McDonald's was the only way I could have something where I didn't have to be the one cleaning up after.

Dr Velvet Thong: How often was The Bumble at home? It doesn't sound like he ate meals with you often?

Blinky: Maybe my memory is faulty, but I don't remember him eating with us or being home much in either place. He might have thought my cooking was 'awful' or like my mother's or something, but it really might have mostly been that he preferred to eat out, with people his own age.

Dr Velvet Thong: What was his salary?

Blinky: That's something I'm not sure about. In Winnipeg, I knew that it was $100,000/year, but he also had a company car, car expenses and moving expenses were taken care of, his long distance phone bills were paid, and an expense account where he could eat out any day, and also take people out for dinner and drinks. But, when you make that amount, you don't get to keep it all, and he might have been in a bracket where at that stage he was taxed half of it. You'd think there might be tax loopholes for someone with 4 kids and no other parent, but at that stage we were getting older.

In the two years after the skull fracture, I don't think he could make quite as much as he had in the past, but it was probably still a 'decent' salary, and he had redeemed himself enough that the people in Winnipeg thought he was worth the money.

I never asked questions. It was obvious he thought it ruined one's life to count up how much you're spending on 'necessities' - which for him were cigarettes, alcohol, horses, and non-boring food. I don't know for sure how much he spent on us compared to how much he spent on himself.

In Brampton and Vic Park, I'm guessing the rent was probably low, maybe at the time each were approx. $700-800? And maybe less, it's hard to guess. And I don't think he gave more than $100/wk for food, but there was a bit extra on Fridays. He might have given the boys money for occasional haircuts at Supercuts or something.

But after the accident, it seems unlikely to me he would have 'cleared' less than $30,000/year? So, how much, what percentage went toward the 4 of us, and what to him? If he spent something like $1200/month for rent, and food for us, and maybe there were the odd incidentals, and his rent was paid, and he had no car expenses one year.. He did keep horses in the country at that time.. wait, that would have been the year after the licence issues? But when he got it back, I'm not sure he ever participated in grocery shopping again?

When he had girlfriends, our standard of living was a bit higher, so maybe they generously contributed toward some of the expenses and didn't complain about it because they were 'in love', and acting as women act.

But it does stick out in my mind that even living with his wife in Winnipeg, when I moved into my own apartment that was about $210/month, and I guess I had less than $200 for all my other expenses on welfare, to me it seemed like I had massive amounts of money, and that being on welfare was a lot better than living at 'home'. Maybe it was because I had choices for 'just me'.

In Winnipeg, part of the money problem related to paying for Beany's rent so she could finish high school at the same place, not move away from her boyfriend, and I think he paid for Cecil through Grade 13 (if you wanted to go to university, in those days you had to do Grade 13, even after technically graduating high school), too, and so then it seemed unfair not to let K-Pru's son and his wife and baby stay with us, or me, or Boo, and all of that was expensive and added to marital problems, but it all happened because of poor planning in the first place, and it seems unfair to blame the horrible kids. But I understood his philosophies to some extent.. he had a job since he was 15.. his kids should be taking care of themselves. He had a parent die when he was 15. But I don't think he understood just how little stability we had in comparison to him, or that one poor parental figure can prevent kids from becoming as 'productive' as they could be.

There are ways of spending money that make wealth seem like not much of anything. There's a difference between spending the bare minimum, poverty level on kids when you have a lot of money, and when you do as Mama Smurf did, to endure it in service of long-term plans. The gfs didn't think our needs were their business, and mostly they were in the business of pleasing him and not trying to do what the Evil Mama Smurf did, which was to suffocate and try to restrict him.

Dr Velvet Thong: He was a disaster with money.

Blinky: Yes, I guess that is it. In Winnipeg, the amount of money I had for food, phone, entertainment on welfare was probably less than what he spent on cigarettes a month, and I thought it was a fortune. And I grew up constantly feeling I owed him money, that he was too generous, that I was a deadbeat. When I lived with him, the only thing he contributed was food, and we could eat as much as we wanted. I didn't really make shopping lists when we lived with K-Pru or The Business Teacher - they went shopping together.

I don't know how much money he lost in the horse business or on the country house/farm. I don't know if it was all in his name, and I don't know if he had debts other than the one that caused him to be banned by Bell Canada from having a phone. I am seeing now that he did try to blame us for costing too much, and being deadbeats, and that he didn't recognize or value my contributions and in life I continue to struggle with that.

Dr Velvet Thong: Were there horses in Winnipeg?

Blinky: Yes. But earlier, when he had them again in the Vic Park days after regaining his licence, I think pretty much only Beany went to visit the horses with him. When he lived in the trailer at the back of a woman's property in Winnipeg after he quit his job, he had at least one horse then, and I went over riding one day - and that's probably one of the only times he ever took photos of me, and they were awful. I did do a lot of work around that property, (unpaid, except that he picked me up at my welfare apartment every once in a while, and brought me there and I got to eat things I couldn't when at my place, but I also baked him cookies, and that might be partly why he wanted me to visit. He was a social person, and it was difficult for him to be alone, and so even though he hated me, probably, he dropped by once in a while. We couldn't organize it by phone, because I didn't have one. He'd just show up, and in those days, perhaps all those who think it takes me hours to get ready might be surprised that I was fairly flexible in those days, that I could throw a few things together, and go anywhere. And he'd let me drive the truck down Portage (with like a bizillion lanes of traffic to factor in), all the way out to where he was staying in the country. and he let me drive the truck on my own when clearing the property of old rotten stuff, to take it to the dump. So, basically, I could drive on my own, but never got a licence. When Beany visited, they both laughed at my driving. I'm not sure Beany was a better driver, but she had a licence.

When his two dogs were infested with ticks, instead of taking them to the vet, he showed me how to remove the ticks, and left the responsibility to me. At the time, I didn't really totally understand the seriousness of it, but I did it so carefully, and the dogs both lived and had no problems. It took hours to remove all the ticks.

Natalie had lived in the city all her life and didn't have a driver's licence either, and at one point she wanted to learn how to drive out in the country, and he pretty much ridiculed her attempts, and it was like she was the biggest retard who ever tried to drive, something like that, so we got the idea that maybe some people are just not ever meant to drive, and I felt that I was probably one of them, too. Actually, I'm not being fair. He didn't say retard or stupid cunt, it was more his sense of humour and how he conveyed it.

Years later, he said Natalie was teaching line dancing, and it seemed a bit odd, because from what I remembered, she didn't really seem very interested in teaching anything, but maybe it was that she was becoming more assertive, and trying to get out of her comfort zone.

The first time he had visitation after moving out, he took us to eat at one of those mall steakhouse type restaurants that are dimly lit, even in the afternoon. I think he was a regular there, because the waitresses seemed to know him. I suspected he might have shagged one or two of them.

That was the first time we tried shrimp cocktail, the kind popular in the 70s. We all developed a liking for it. We had cheeseburgers and fries, and there were onion rings to pass around. Milkshakes as beverage, and strawberry shortcake for dessert. It was way too much to eat, and I was in pain, we all were, for hours after he dropped us back home. Part of it was an 'eyes bigger than stomachs' thing, but part of it was probably about wondering how much it all cost, and not wanting to be wasteful. The Bumble didn't have a milkshake from what I recall - I am pretty sure he had alcoholic mixed drinks of some kind.

Not for this section, but one 'good memory' or sensory memory is that for 3 years in the white and black farmhouse, each year for a period of about 2 weeks, the lilac trees that lined the long driveway smelled nice. The lilacs only seemed to be in bloom for that short time each year, and then, walking to the school bus, and from it after school, kind of stands out. They were pretty and went nicely in an aesthetic sense with the house, and I liked the scent. And when I had mowed the lawn, the place looked pretty good.

When I studied Merchant of Venice in Grade 9, The Bumble could quote a bit of it: the quality of mercy is not strained. (Myself, I vaguely remember something about it droppeth like the gentle rain from heaven, blahblahblah,) He could probably do a bit more. And so now, what I'm saying in these sessions, maybe it's not mercy, but I think maybe that throughout his life, he had large dollops of mercy, and didn't recognize them.

Dr Velvet Thong: Who cooked when Natalie moved out?

Blinky: It's funny, I don't even remember what Natalie used to cook. The Bumble ate elsewhere, and I heated up canned spaghetti or mini-ravioli or tv dinners for me and Beany. I am not sure what she ate while I was in the hospital, but I vaguely remember asking her, and I think maybe tv dinners, and she might have eaten at the neighbours'.

When I worked at the cemetery job fulltime briefly after working there parttime during the school year to save for university ('Resthaven Memorial Gardens, you stab 'em, we slab 'em!'.. but seriously, I only answered that way when I knew Vlad was calling me there.. basically my job was to call people up and ask them if they wanted to receive info in the mail about prearranging burial or cremation, and I never followed the script and no one complained because the salesmen by far got more sales from my calls), I started dating one of my co-workers, the older guy The Bumble called The Cokehead, not the manager who made a pass in the supply closet and asked me to be his mistress, offering to put me up in my own apartment. And for a couple of months, I'm not sure how much cooking I did, although I still would have made the grocery lists and taken care of the cleaning. When the relationship ended, I resumed full duties. The end of that relationship is a whole other story in itself, with me sort of being abandoned in the middle of the night at Carlton and Jarvis and being mistaken for a sex worker while waiting for the streetcar - maybe I'll get back to it some other time. From there, right back to my middleage housewifely type duties.. I did regularly clean the bathrooms, kitchen and do general tidying up - in the apartment in many ways it was easier because there were no pets, and no carpets. But we lived there more than 2 years, and my period of dating The Cokehead wasn't that long. I don't want to accept The Bumble's default name for him, so I'll call him Dylan Jagger O'Connor.

Family Skeleton Fashion Closet

Styles of the 70s! Yes! At some point both The Bumble and Mama Smurf sported 'fros. Him with his big Freddy Fender moustache. But even though at times it seemed like he tried to get something unusual, like a rust coloured leather blazer when we lived on Vic Park, I don't remember him being very good with fashion. His work suits were serviceable, but cheap - but not even Don Draper can pull off all the old 70s looks. He always had jeans with cowboy belt buckles, I think. He might have been a dude in his cowboy days, and then the confidence lingered. I think though in his circles later on, he was often like the Magnum PI of the group, in the ladies' eyes. The 'fros didn't last long for either of them. It could be they didn't like the photos. Probably the issue with clothes was that with the cheap stuff that was in style in the 70s, you needed to be young and fit or very slim to pull it off, so only Mama Smurf pulled off the fashions of the day.

Mama Smurf did hippie hair extremely well. Her hair was healthy and thick, (long) and her face was well-shaped. I think she looked best with long straight hair, but she also looked good when teaching kindergarten and she had a really elegant kind of updo, I'm not sure what it's called - for the class and group teacher photos. She looked like a movie star, with a lot of poise, not just a pretty teacher.

She wouldn't let me wear jeans to school until I was in 7th grade, because she thought it was improper, or something, but she might have eased up because she started wearing jeans daily herself, and maybe her boyfriend influenced her/she wanted to please him, her boyfriend who played guitar and sang Neil Diamond songs (Forever in Blue Jeans!) Also, she was beginning to realize that people thought she was younger than other mothers when she wore jeans. And, she received comments that she looked good in them. Because she did.

They were both influenced by fashion, and when non-fro Charlie's Angels perms came into fashion, she tried that out. The first day, she looked amazing, and I told her so, but she just wasn't into all the curling and styling that kind of look took to maintain, and she ended up with the kind of poodle look a little too long. I would have recommended she just go back to the straight hippie style, which was easy for her to maintain, maybe cut a few long layers in, and keep the jeans.

I have no clue as to who picked out the dress she was buried in, or what drugs they were smoking. It was this weird woollen beige thing, like acrylic, with no shape, very prim, and nothing like anything I'd ever seen her in. A massive, expensive funeral, and no one in the family who can choose a becoming or appropriate dress? After watching Six Feet Under, I wonder if they put a wig on her, and I guess that makes sense, because she'd had brain/head surgery, and maybe the neck location of the aneurysm also meant the neck had to be covered, but who chose the fucking poodle perm wig?? This was a woman who secretly wanted to be Audrey Hepburn. I am retroactively incensed, and if I had been a conscious enough being, and assertive enough at 16, I would have made sure she wasn't abused in such ways. If only one photo was shown to a funeral director, and then things were left in the hands of the 'experts', I guess that's where it all might have gone wrong. And I suppose the commonlaw husband, who was kind of a pariah to the heavily Catholic crowd, might have been subtly excluded or pushed out, might not have had much power, but fuck, it's like no one was on her side, either. I don't remember ever seeing her in beige. Maybe it was more of a camel-beige, but still. And it made her face look beige, too. If she had a perm at the time, and on a daily basis it was sort of loose-poodle, it doesn't mean that for a special occasion, like death, she wouldn't have wanted the Charlie's Angels look, and if I go could back in time, I'd try to fucking be the one to give it to her.

[I think I could have worked out any neck issues. Was the problem all the way around, even if it was the back of the neck that was affected? Anyway, for example, what about that Jimi Hendrix scarf thing she had?]

[Big, expensive funeral, me in my cum-stained sweet 16 dress, on centre stage, the huge crowd couldn't look at her at the big church or at the gravesite. The 4 kids were the focal points, what everyone came to see. We had a special bench in the church, and we stood together closest to the coffin and the priest for the graveside ceremony. I'm not sure if we were sort of on elevated ground, like a hill, but it might have made sense, if the crowds were to see us. I have vague memories of looking out onto a big sea of people. I don't know if the priest had a mic, but maybe, because there was one in the church. No pressure. 'She's 16 now, she's never gonna look like her mother, but the younger one..' But the point I was trying to make was that it was a big funeral, it was expensive, there were a lot of people there, and yet so little care was taken to present her as she would have wanted to be, or in a way that meshed with anyone's idea of her, and while professionals took care of some things, communication in the family was not good enough that the main members of her family, her kids, were given much direction.]

Some time later, Mama Smurf's sister had a bunch of her clothes and I was kind of creeped out by her attitude, as if this is one of the winfalls of death, you get all their best clothes. She seemed to encourage me to choose a few things for myself, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. Is it possible a jealous sister, the only available female, would choose a funeral dress and wig for her sister, as a kind of final fuck you? I can't know, and so a long time ago I decided it was probably the first thing, it was left in the hands of funeral directors who weren't as skilled as Rico et al.

A little over a year later, at Grampa Smurf's wedding to his second wife (I'm now kind of wondering if she was in some kind of Polish mafia family - is there such a thing?), Sister Smurf asked me after the service if I had cried, and I said no, and she said fairly bitchily, something like 'oh that's right, you don't ever cry, do you'. Ok, I will try to make a statement about this. I didn't respond, but I didn't dwell on it. It only started to come back to me years later. At the time, I didn't know what she was trying to communicate, or what kind of response she expected. It seems like a person would not make such a statement unless they have some resentment or judgment, but is it that they just need to be allowed to let off steam, or is it that they need to resolve it? When you observe possums scrapping, it's all kind of amusing, (actually, some of it is quite scary and you think they're killing each other, but usually they survive and don't seem to hold a grudge, they just get on with their lives) and part of it is that they're constantly defending position, territory and standing. Does how you respond or fail to respond factor in to your standing in a family? You can aim to be accepting and forgiving, and give people the benefit of the doubt, they need to be allowed negative emotions, and an outlet, but overall, they are a good person and mean you no harm, they are on your side. The thing is though that while you think of yourself as trying to develop your accepting skills, they unconsciously perceive it as you conceding your position or ceding territory. And you always have to remember that sometimes communication is simply awkward and comes out in a way that is not in line with someone's conscious intent, and when you recognize it has happened to you as well, that people have perceived or might perceive some things differently to your intent, wouldn't you want to be cut some slack?

But what if you are always cutting people slack that they never seem to cut in return, or it gets to a point where it's so out of balance that it doesn't make sense to keep on with cutting it to the same extent? Some things that would have slid off maybe were too much when I was already down, being kicked when down, etc. And it's true that in school I had an astounding mnemonic capacity, not just above average. It's not like I could just shut that off.

But Sister Smurf bought some of the best chrismukkah presents I ever got from family, like a recording of The Point when Grampa was buying me Cinderella, and really cool feather earrings when I was 15, and a wok when I announced I was now vegetarian.

When The Space Cowboy went to prison for 2 years less a day for the drug business, it's weird, I know that even then I sympathized, but it's not like I spoke up. Ineffectual family communication. I think he was providing a necessary service, and that people should be allowed to choose for themselves. If I went back in time, I'd probably write to him in prison, and I'd also have tried to contact Sister Smurf often, to see how she was doing on the outside.

The music of the 70s doesn't trigger happy memories of childhood or a more innocent time. The music of the 70s was a kind of escape from my situation, something that lifted a mood I didn't know was already down. I liked the car rides late at night, when it was dark, after we'd been visiting somewhere, when all the other kids were asleep, and I could hear the songs on the radio on the drive home, when the parental units were awake, and The Bumble was driving, but they were probably both drunk. I guess also the music was also tied up in fantasies of my future, when I would be old enough to date, and to experience Real Love, because I had the unconscious idea that family love wasn't Real Love, it was duty, obligation. It wasn't magical.

And when they had big parties, and blared 50s, and 60s music through the Bose speakers, there was such an adrenaline rush, such a sense of anticipation of what the future would be, and of what Sex and Love would be.

There was another unpleasant issue, though.. at these parties, drunk already before guests had arrived, The Bumble would play songs like The Great Pretender, and so from a young age, I associated these exciting, sexy parties as not relating to marriage. They were an escape from the prison of marriage. The Bumble was always unsatisfied and dreaming of someone else, in every relationship he was ever in. Most of his significant others would probably try to help organize him or give him enough empathy that he'd be happier in life, less stressed, but it was a massive job, and he was such a complete disaster/energy drain, that even the best 'managers' usually called it quits eventually. The managers also tried to manage the sprogs, but the thing was, pretty much all of his signficant others were only able to express empathy toward The Bumble, and not toward any other humans. A bit like his mother.

The camera was not Mother Bumble's friend (Natalie used to call her Mother Bumble, in a very stiff and formal way. For some reason Mother Bumble liked Natalie better than our mother and his other gfs, maybe because she didn't speak much), and she knew it, and while she tolerated some family photos, she mostly tried to avoid being in any, and had no problem scowling at those who disobeyed her wishes. I did sympathize with her. When I became more conscious, through suffering over my own lack of photogenicness, I wondered if we had more in common that I had originally realized, but I think our personality types are probably different.

She always seemed to have an awful fashion sense, as if it was self-punishment, maybe, but in her favourite photo of herself, she did look like a fashionplate, and when I saw it, I could understand her better. It was from when she was young, the photo. When she was in her 80s and her hair was white, and she had a red wool winter coat, I think she looked better than any other time I had seen her before, like she finally got it right again, after all these years.

Throughout her life she kept her hair short, but still long enough to get a regular semi-permanent wave to give her hair body and shape. Sister Bumble did this too, and also dyed it a reddish colour, a bit darker than strawberry blond, but not 'showy' - not the colour of someone who doesn't know her place. She was more photogenic than Mother Bumble or The Bumble, but she was never allowed to put on airs about it. She was to know her place: Mother Bumble worshipped The Bumble, and Sister Bumble was chopped liver.

That's probably also how I'd describe her fashion sense, not 'showy', not that of someone who doesn't know her place, and the clothes she gave as presents were always unwearable in one way or another.

I guess when I think of mother and sister, I think of really awful 70s dark beige pantyhose and clunky shoes that didn't really look fashionable or comfortable and aged a person a few decades. Flower prints that always resembled vomit, like the old sofa Mother Bumble donated for the sardine apartment, orange and brown.

Camera pans with ominous music to the Possum TV house, and slowly creeps along the orange cork floors, to all the shades of chocolate paint and mocha microfibre sofas... Psycho theme shower scene music?

The Bumble himself didn't look too bad in later life when he had gained more weight, and started wearing untucked conventional fashions, the 'natural, no-nonsense, suburban guy look'. Maybe he started letting his gfs do his shopping, felt comfortable in what they bought, and left it at that.

Mama Smurf could sew, and she often made us matching outfits for chrismukkah and special occasions, like velvet pinafores or vests and pants. The boys would have the same colour and outfit, and the girls would have matching outfits, too. When she bought things from the store, and Beany and I got something that was supposed to match, Beany's outfit always tended to be cuter. The night before special occasions, after our baths, Mama Smurf would tie my hair and Beany's up in rag 'curlers' and we'd sleep on them, letting them dry overnight.

In high school, Beany wore sweats that were in fashion then, maybe from Cotton Ginny, and also Daniel Hechter things, and Roots. When she worked for a designer in The Beaches as a manager, she wore the designer's clothes, which were mainly dressy-casual-comfortable jersey knit skirts, tops, pants. I think she wore the designer's clothes in a fashion show once that ended up on tv.. and when her turn down the runway came, when she did a spin, her long straight hair fanned out perfectly all around her and the whole effect was really amazing.

Cecil and The Bumble always had short hair. Their hair was very fine and got greasy easily, and this was the best solution. The Bumble had a bath, every day, without fail.

Everyone also always wore jeans and t-shirts, and long sleeve shirts that go with jeans.

In my 20s, I most liked to shop at the Le Chateau warehouse at Danforth and Woodbine. Their stuff was more goth then than it is now. I'd walk there and check out what they had, often. In school, I wore tight jeans in the first years, and then I had increasing difficulty in finding anything comfortable. At one point Vlad's mom gave me some old skirts and blouses of hers, but we had very different body types, and I didn't look great in them.

Boo could wake up anywhere, pick up clothes off the floor, no matter whose, and wear them and look good.

Once I curled his thick, dark hair and put makeup on him and he looked just like a model.

The Polish Mafia (Hidden Bonus Chapter)

-The photo album of exclusively corpses. Was that Grampa's, and if so, wtf? Was it T's family's? I guess I didn't have my wits about me well enough to examine it carefully, but my impression was kind of like it was a bunch of pictures of dead mafia figures. Not done up pretty like in Six Feet Under, but with faces that often had a kind of black and blue appearance, and kind of slick/dark looking hair. They were laid out in coffins or in settings that seemed consistent with a funeral parlour, not on the street or a back room or whatever, and they were in positions of repose. It could be that the photography/lighting was bad, or that it wasn't a very attractive family, even when living.

But I start to wonder about how a good Catholic girl, like Sister Smurf, with the father she had, ended up with a drug kingpin, and maybe there were family connections I was unaware of. Also, there's this picture I remember of Sister Smurf, one of the most attractive ones, when she was a young teen, sitting on the lap of some sleazy looking relative, who looked a bit like one of the corpses, or so I could imagine, and she was kind of surrounded by a bunch of plump, sleazy looking male relatives, relatives I don't really remember meeting, with her blond hair and a pretty dress, fresh and bright in comparison to the men.

When Mama Smurf began to fantasize about Superman/Christopher Reeve, was it partly that she simply yearned to find some law abiding citizen? Someone physically strong enough to be a match for all these macho athlete types she knew?

But ha, The Polish Mafia might be a fun title/section.

The Space Cowboy had a lot of involvement with bikers, and I vaguely had the sense that it was dangerous and required all one's wits to deal with them. I vaguely had the sense that some serious shit had occurred, including actual deaths, but I don't know.

They had a big hotel they ran, I think near Wasaga Beach, but it might have been somewhere else in Ontario. I think it was called The Windjammer. I think for some reason the main foyer reminds me of the hotel in The Shining, some part of it, but I'm not sure why. I think there might have been a lot of stonework, very high ceiling, a big fireplace.

They lived in Montreal for a while, and near a small town called Eden Mills, and also near Elmira which was near a community of religious buggy people. In Elmira and another place they had 'drug mansion' type places. In Eden Mills, a rundown shacklike house. Montreal, an apartment in a highrise. And in Kitchener, after jail, a more modest house, with a swimming pool and a very ornate livingroom (and also a dining room), with matching white leather sofas, a lot of white, gold and glass and feathers. They always had well-groomed Afghan dogs that matched the feathers in the decor, with fancy names, like Temigen (he was first our dog, but too unruly for a family. We always called him Tem, and I'm not sure of the spelling, and maybe he was called something else before he lived with them), Petra and Morgan.

I heard about opium (and hashish?) smoking somewhere overseas where it's a stereotypical activity, and Sister Smurf's signature perfume was Opium. I heard about guys with machine guns guarding a door while money was counted, in a palace-like place somewhere either in South or Central America. And about cavity searches after a trip to Jamaica.

And The Space Cowboy was particularly proud that he received a sentence of '2 Years Less A Day'. It means they could only prove a more minor offence. But, what it appears to mean is that a person goes to provincial rather than federal prison, and so that would mean he did not indeed go to the notorious Kingston Penitentiary. Did he go to Joyceville? I would only have heard things once, decades ago, and I wouldn't have asked questions, but if he went to Joyceville, maybe Neil went somewhere with minimum security. I should also bear in mind that someone relaying info might have got it wrong, as if everyone assumed all criminals go to Kingston, or something. Was he happy about avoiding Kingston, the notorious hellhole? Did I just assume he felt proud of getting away with a lesser conviction than he could? And again, he was proud of having the same lawyer to argue his case as Keith Richards had for the heroin bust in Toronto. If he was just a minor player, why would he get such a 'bigtime' lawyer? And was that what helped him get the sentence he got, rather than something worse? People who know more about drug-related laws would probably know the right questions to ask to sort this out. In writing out any details, it's probably going to be best that I do things in such a way that it's creatively tweaked when I know I'm not sure of something.

I think he always hoped I would be a good enough writer to pen his life story, or, a lawyer like that chick in the Jackie Collins novel who defended her criminal family members. I am not just pulling that out of thin air; he actually talked about both. I guess I turned out to be a major disappointment.

Mama Smurf's bf also got a conviction, but a lesser one. The Space Cowboy went to a tougher prison (but managed to avoid Kingston Pen), he went to a cosier one, with less high security. One of the names was Joyceville (medium security). I'm not sure, but I think the bf was smuggling cigarettes, and it could be that with the location of the resort, and access to the US, part of why it was bought in the first place was strategic.

When we were visiting, we were warned by Sister Smurf that the phones were bugged, and when she and I were walking the dog, she told me we were being monitored by the RCMP. She pointed out a house she said was a base camp for them.

-Always factor in Hummingbird's Tongue Syndrome. And pulling quarters from behind our ears, every time, every visit.. the Space Cowboy liked to exaggerate, he liked to see how gullible people were. He did it with a straight face, but he never seemed mean-spirited to kids. He was trying to speak in his language to them. Babci is descended from Polish royalty, you know.

-I haven't written all that much about Grampa Smurf, and one thing that occurs to me is that while I'm trying to restore a kind of equality for Mama Smurf and her contributions, in the end, it might be that while his bumbles will be seen, The Bumble might still seem the more 'fun' or charismatic character, even more fun than everyone else, and the whole story might look like the griping of an unexceptional child.

. One of the main reasons it was fun to visit Babci and Grampa was that Grampa was so enthusiastic, full of smiles, cheerful, and he seemed to clearly recognize each of us as individual entities in our own right, not as a mass of sprogs.

The Simpsons' Family Therapy Episode (Hidden Bonus Chapter 2)

One of the first episodes, before all the characters were fully developed or drawn. In a family therapy session, they have little buttons to push to zap other family members with electric shocks.

Dr Velvet Thong: Your family has a lot in common with The Simpsons.

Blinky: Baseball/softball. When Gandhi and I played with my brothers, their Significant Others and their friends, the team was called The Homers, after Homer Simpson.

The Bumble is kind of like a Homer Simpson-Fred Flinstone. He looked more like Fred. Mama Smurf was more Wilma than Marge, but sexier, more hippieish.

We chose who we wanted to be, and our names were printed on our uniforms, which had a Homer Simpson head as a logo on them.

Cecil was Krusty, Boo was Milhouse, their gfs were Itchy and Scratchy. Itchy and Scratchy were obsessed with marriage and kids and pretty materialistic, and also very pretty and petite. Beany didn't play the year I did. I was Jub-Jub, an obscure reference, an iguana inherited by Marge's sister. No one on the team seemed to want to be any of the main characters, but probably Boo could have passed for Bart, Cecil and I could have both been Lisa, and Beany would have been Maggie. Gandhi was Otto.

It was supposed to be for fun, but starting out, it seemed like a lot of the members were laughing at Jub-Jub, with her bleached hair, purple dress and black leggings, and lack of experience, in a way that didn't totally seem to be all in fun. She certainly didn't seem the Jock Type. Anyway, for the awards ceremony, she was voted not only Most Improved, but also female MVP. She had chosen to play first base, as a challenge. She would have ceded to a more skilled player, but no one wanted to take that one on. Through practices it was discovered she was good at all positions and could be a floater but made a commitment to take the heat that goes with that position. She also ended up with the most RBIs. And she had showed up to every game and practice.

A team called the Lizards won the championship.

Dr Velvet Thong: Did you enjoy it?

Blinky: No, the whole thing was excruciating, from beginning to end, but I made a commitment, and I saw it through, and then I hung up my baseball glove. A quitter once again, the weakest link on the family tree, the one least likely to try hard at anything.

I think the issue was that I couldn't enjoy any social outing because I was constantly aware of hidden judgment, even from my family. Everyone else had jobs or were still in school. I was the only deadbeat mental patient, or, escaped mental patient. I wasn't medicated or monitored, and it was only a matter of time before people with the proper social passports would begin to notice there was something odd about me. In a way, it makes competition even more stressful, because everyone is sort of unconsciously invested in 'proving' their right to exist and succeed in life.

Dr Velvet Thong: How old were you at the time?

Blinky: 30. A hopeless case for years already.

Dr Velvet Thong: Did your siblings or their SOs win any of the other awards the year you played?

Blinky: Nope.

Night of the Werepossum, or, Pimped Up Possums

Where do I go from here?

Once I manage to finish 'family skeleton dance party', if I manage to finish, I think the next writing project will be 'night of the werepossum', (perhaps with a subheading 'pimped up possums') and roughly, I think it will address the concepts of 'meaningful' work/employment, 'competence', 'deserving' and 'usefulness'. Other concepts to address? 'Freaks', 'mutants', the supernatural.

If I still somehow continue to draggle on, I'll probably further develop my surrealist style.

PS: I'm speaking in code.

->exile on meme st: a diary